Upgrades to the next generation of phone service technology will result in some older phones being disconnected from service in early this year, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
Phones that will lose service will be unable to call 911, according to Lieutenant Adam Reed, the director of the state police’s communications office.
“During an emergency, every minute counts, whether you need police, fire or medical assistance,” Reed said.
AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile have announced plans to shut down their 3G networks to accommodate more advanced services such as 5G as early as February, the FCC said.
AT&T announced it will finish shutting down its 3G network by February, while Sprint’s 3G CDMA network will follow by March 31. Then, Sprint’s 4G LTE network will be completely removed by June 30 as a result of the merger between Sprint and T-Mobile, and T-Mobile’s 3G UMTS network will shut down by July 1. Finally, Verizon will complete the shutdown of its 3G network by the end of the year.
Other carriers, such as Cricket, Boost, Straight Talk and several Lifeline mobile service providers use AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile’s network, and will be affected by the change.
This will affect older phones that run on 3G service, and public safety officials say residents need to think ahead with this in mind.
According to The Washington Post, iPhones older than the iPhone 6 will no longer work for calls and data, including the 5, 5C and 5S. Samsung Galaxy S4’s and older are 3G devices, and newer models might need an update to work. The iPhone 6 was released in 2014, and the Samsung Galaxy S4 was released in 2013.
According to state police, most people will be directly notified if the switch from 3G to 5G will affect them, but individuals using phones exclusively designed to call 911 in case of emergencies only phones may not receive notification of this shutdown if they do not have active service.
Low-income individuals whose phones will no longer be supported can apply for service through the FCC’s Lifeline program at lifelinesupport.org.
Dana Brigandi, the development, marketing and programming director at the James V. Brown Library, has been helping more and more seniors become familiar with their smart devices since 2013.
However, she said that service concluded during the pandemic due to safety reasons and a lack of interest.
Brigandi said many seniors came into the library to expand knowledge already gained from family members introducing them to technology. She also said the pandemic forced a jump in the technology gap by 10 years.
“Now a certain demographic and age group were forced to learn these skills they might otherwise not know,” Brigandi said.
Brigandi said many who are economically disadvantaged still have some kind of smart device — it is necessary in a world where one needs to apply online for benefits, jobs and unemployment benefits. But that’s not something most people are thinking about until it affects them, Brigandi said.
“‘Until my phone is shut off, I’m not thinking about it,’” Brigandi said of the mindset of those people.