Fibre threat to OAPs
Planned broadband system could affect safety device – experts
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