The Irish Mail on Sunday

Fibre threat to OAPs

Planned broadband system could affect safety device – experts

- By Valerie Hanley news@mailonsund­

CONCERNS have been raised about whether lifesaving security pendants issued to pensioners living alone will work when the proposed fibre optic broadband system is introduced.

And according to some industry experts both the Department of Communicat­ions and the Department of Rural Affairs have failed to consider how vulnerable elderly people will have a lifeline when they may need it most during electricit­y power cuts.

Marcus Matthews, a spokesman for the Regional Internet Service Provider Associatio­n (Rispa) explained: ‘When homeowners move their telephone service to an NBP-based subscripti­on, their existing copper landline will no longer have service. This means that unless they purchase a battery backup unit for their home router, they will have no way of making landline calls in the event of a power outage. ’

These revelation­s come as the Government prepares to sign a €3b-plus contract with National Broadband Ireland (NBA) in the coming weeks. However, when the Irish Mail on Sunday contacted the Department of Communicat­ions, officials refused to answer specific questions about how the Seniors Alert Scheme may be impacted by the installati­on of fibre optic broadband in rural Ireland.

And they claimed that it was the responsibi­lity of telecoms operators to ensure the reliabilit­y of their networks. However, Rispa’s Marcus Matthews said: ‘For the department to say this is like saying the ESB is responsibl­e for the wiring in your home.’

Meanwhile, officials at the Department of Community and Rural Affairs have insisted that it is not their responsibi­lity to oversee how the Seniors Alert Scheme is connected. A Department spokesman said: ‘The equipment predominat­ely operates via a landline. Where there is no landline available a mobile signal is used to provide connectivi­ty. The nature of the landline or mobile connection is not a matter for the Seniors Alert Scheme.’

Alone boss Sean Moynihan has urged the Government to ensure the National Broadband Plan does not undermine the scheme. He said: ‘It is essential no older person is cut off or at a loss in regards to their technologi­cal supports.’

 ??  ?? LIFELINE: The Seniors Alert Scheme pendants save lives
LIFELINE: The Seniors Alert Scheme pendants save lives

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