Fi­bre threat to OAPs

Planned broad­band sys­tem could af­fect safety de­vice – ex­perts

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - NEWS - By Va­lerie Han­ley news@mailon­sun­day.ie

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

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