Officials meet with telcos to discuss impact of storms

Minister claims DCMS is working with companies to understand where improvements can be made

Credit: David Baird/CC BY-SA 2.0

Government officials are engaging with telecoms companies to better understand the impact of recent storms on the UK’s communications infrastructure and ascertain “where improvements can be made”.

The Electronic Communications Resilience and Response Group (EC-RRG), led by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, is a government-convened forum that brings together policymakers from various departments with representatives of firms that provider fixed-line and mobile voice services and broadband, as well as officials from devolved administrations and Ofcom – the telecoms industry regulator. A key focus of the group is the “security and resilience” of networks and services.

Julia Lopez, the minister for media, data and digital infrastructure, said that the group had recently held discussions about the impact of three major storms that took place in late 2021 and early 2022 – although not including the more recent trio of storms Eunice, Dudley, and Franklin.

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Government’s discussions with telcos have covered the “resilience to storms” of both the long-standing Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) infrastructure – which is being shut down permanently in 2025 – and the digital voice-over-IP technology which is replacing the outgoing network. The EC-RRG is also examining how infrastructure could be bolstered ahead of further storms, according to Lopez.

“DCMS is working with Ofcom, BT, and other providers to complete a Post-Incident Review following Storms Arwen, Malik and Corrie,” she said. “We will carefully consider the findings and work with the telecoms sector to understand where improvements can be made in future.”

The minister added: “DCMS is also engaged in regular discussions with BT and other providers regarding the migration from the PSTN to VoIP services. The PSTN is an outdated technology, and becoming difficult to replace and repair due to a lack of spare parts. Given it cannot be maintained, it will become increasingly unreliable. While the PSTN upgrade is an industry-led process, the government is also working with Ofcom to ensure consumers and sectors are protected and prepared for the upgrade process. This also includes close engagement with the emergency services, such as the Police, the NHS and the Fire Brigade.”

Lopez was responding to a written parliamentary question from fellow Conservative MP Andrew Bowie.


Sam Trendall

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