CONCERNS have been raised about the coming switch from analogue to digital phonelines across Northumberland.

Between now and 2025, the majority of telephone providers will move their customers from older analogue landlines to new modern services that utilise digital technology.

While the new digital lines can offer “many more” services than existing analogue lines, digital lines cannot carry a power connection.

This means that, unlike those they replace, digital telephones will not work in the event of a power cut without a suitable backup power source.

In Northumberland, where the devastation caused by Storm Arwen is still fresh in the minds of many residents, the planned changes have caused significant worry among some of the county’s most vulnerable.

The storm knocked out power lines across the county, causing days of power cuts that saw even mobile phone masts go down. This left many residents with their landline as their only form of communication with the outside world.

Speaking at Monday’s meeting (February 26) of the council’s corporate services and economic growth scrutiny committee, Councillor Malcolm Robinson said: “A few years ago we had Storm Arwen.

“I had a village knocked off for about four days which renders these new lines powerless. A landline has its own built-in supply, but now they would have lost a telephone.”

Chris Thompson, the council’s director of digital and IT, said Cllr Robinson’s concerns were “consistent with a lot of concerns raised by communities”.

He added: “Providers are putting in back-up services where there are vulnerable residents.

“It is an industry-led initiative. They’re responsible to provide that.”

Cllr Robinson argued: “You’re talking about vulnerable people, but if you have a whole village that loses power, then that whole village is vulnerable.”

Mr Thompson said the council was exploring other options, including satellite-based communication that would offer connectivity when mobile phone masts are down.

A report presented to members of the committee also stated that the council would be working hard to inform residents about the upcoming changes.

Any specific concerns from residents should be raised with that individual’s supplier.