KCOM has welcomed a national charter that will ensure vulnerable people are not left behind by the digital upgrade of phone networks across the UK.

The East Yorkshire-based telecoms company has signed up to the charter, which was instigated by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, to ensure vulnerable people remain protected and connected as the nation’s phone networks are upgraded from old copper wiring to fibre.

A KCOM spokesperson said: “As a responsible provider we’re committed to ensuring that no customer is left behind as we continue upgrading our landline phone network and making it fit to face the future.

“We have already done a huge amount of work to ensure that vulnerable customers  are informed about what the switchover means for them and are providing personal engineer visits to those who need extra help to ensure their phonelines and telecare lifelines are in full working order when they are switched.

“We have worked extensively with local councils and community groups to reach the most vulnerable in our communities and also partnered with Age UK Hull and East Yorkshire to make sure older people in our area are fully informed about the upgrade process – and have extra help available when they need it.

“We absolutely welcome this initiative from the Technology Secretary to enshrine protections for the vulnerable in a charter and we will continue to do everything we can to make sure that no-one is left behind by the switchover.”

Earlier this year, KCOM won the Best Integrated Communication Campaign at the prestigious industry ISPA Awards for its work to raise awareness of the digital switchover.

The Charter commitments include:

  • Providers will conduct additional checks on customers who have already been forcibly migrated to ensure they do not have telecare devices the provider was unaware of, and if they do, to ensure suitable support is provided.
  • No telecare users will be migrated to digital landline services without the provider, customer, or telecare company confirming they have a compatible and functioning telecare solution in place.
  • Providers will be required to work to provide back-up solutions (battery back-up units) that go beyond regulator Ofcom’s minimum of one hour of continued, uninterrupted access to emergency services in the event of a power outage.
  • They will collectively work with Ofcom and the UK government to agree a shared definition of ‘vulnerable people’ for this transition, so it is no longer dependent on the company and establishes an industry wide standard.

While BT is managing the migration from its copper Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) to fibre across the rest of the UK, it is KCOM which is leading the £17m upgrade across its Hull and East Yorkshire network.

KCOM is now well underway with its network upgrade, having migrated 20,000 customers from copper to fibre as part of its programme to migrate 170,000 homes and businesses by 2025.

For the vast majority of consumers and businesses, this change has been and will continue to be straightforward.

Nobody will have to lose their landline service because of this change, as there are still options for a ‘landline only’ service should a customer not wish to purchase a general internet connection. Telecoms companies will continue to be bound by the same regulatory obligations as they are today, and this Charter will further strengthen protections for vulnerable consumers.