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Openreach unveils largest ever ‘hard to reach’ Full Fibre build in Scotland

Posted: 29th July 2020

Tens of thousands of homes and businesses in the Lothians to benefit as Scottish Government welcomes focus on more rural rollout

Openreach today outlined plans to make ultra-reliable and gigabit-capable Full Fibre broadband available to tens of thousands of homes and businesses in ‘harder to reach’ Lothian communities.

The new locations1 – including South Queensferry, Penicuik, Cockenzie, Port Seton, Prestonpans, Dunbar, Belhaven, Tranent, Fauldhouse, Breich and Longridge – are among more than 60 small and rural towns and villages across Scotland to be upgraded by Openreach, without taxpayer subsidy. It’s hoped having access to some of the fastest broadband speeds in Europe will boost their post-Covid economic recovery.

Work is expected to get under way in many of the announced locations within the next 12-18 months although, due to the size of the build, some places will see work continue into 2024.

The local locations are part of a wider announcement to make the new technology available to a further 3.2 million premises in the UK’s hardest to reach ‘final third’. 2

The build is at the forefront of a massive £12 billion investment, which will see Openreach’s ambition to build ‘Full Fibre’ infrastructure to 20 million premises throughout the UK by the mid-to-late 2020s – delivering significant economic, social and environmental benefits for rural and urban communities, assuming the right regulatory and political fibre enablers are in place.

Robert Thorburn, Openreach’s Partnership Director for Scotland, said: “We’ve already upgraded hundreds of thousands of homes and business across Scotland to Full Fibre. As well as keeping the existing network running throughout the Covid-19 crisis, our engineers have, safely and with social distancing in place, continued building the new infrastructure to make sure that as lockdown restrictions ease, our network is there to support families, businesses and the economic recovery.

Many Scottish households and businesses can already switch to the new technology and hundreds of thousands more will follow in the months and years ahead. Our Full Fibre build has already reached more than 80,000 homes and businesses in Edinburgh, and is ongoing in Bathgate, Broxburn, Whitburn and West Calder in West Lothian. Now we’re extending it to thousands more households and businesses in these harder-to-reach Lothian communities.

“People can check online and ask their broadband providers to find out more about the many benefits. Full Fibre is more reliable and more resilient – meaning fewer faults and more predictable, consistent speeds. It’s also ‘future-proof’ to easily meet the growing data demands of future technologies.”

There are clear economic benefits to building Full Fibre in more rural areas. In a report by the Centre for Economics & Business Research (Cebr) – Full fibre broadband: A platform for growth”commissioned by Openreach last year, revealed that connecting everyone in Scotland to ‘Full Fibre’ broadband by 2025 would create a £5.5 billion boost to the nation’s economy.

The report also revealed that 37,400 people across Scotland could be brought back into the workforce through enhanced connectivity. This could include roles in small businesses and entrepreneurs – as well as allowing thousands more people to work remotely.

Openreach CEO Clive Selley said: “This year we’ve all seen the importance of having a decent broadband connection and at Openreach, we’re convinced that Full Fibre technology can underpin the UK’s economic recovery.

“Right now, we’re building a new, ultra-reliable Full Fibre network that will boost productivity, cut commuting and carbon emissions, and connect our families, public services and businesses for decades to come. It’s Ofcom’s proposals that give us the right conditions to build commercially in the hardest to reach areas.

“We’re determined to find inventive engineering solutions and effective partnership funding models to reduce costs and enable us to connect as many communities as possible across the UK without public subsidy.

“Openreach is leading the charge to help the UK Government achieve its target of making gigabit capable networks available nationwide by 2025. And we hope that by publishing our own plans, we can help ensure that taxpayers only fund connections in communities that really need public support.”

The Scottish Government’s Connectivity Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “Digital Connectivity has played a vital role in supporting our efforts to keep people safe and connected during lockdown, and will play a pivotal role in plans for our strategic economic recovery from the pandemic, maintaining jobs and livelihoods and creating new skills and opportunities.

“This rollout of gigabit-capable full fibre broadband access enabled by Openreach to these more rural areas is welcomed. Commercial developments like these all play their part in giving Scotland access to superfast broadband and complement the work that the Scottish Government is doing in the Reaching 100% Programme to deliver superfast access for all.”

Openreach has already built Full Fibre technology to more than three million premises across the UK – including more than a quarter in the final third of the country. More than 120,000 homes and businesses have also signed up to Openreach’s Community Fibre Partnership CFP programme. A CFP enables the company to work with a local community to build a customised co-funded solution and bring fibre broadband to areas not included in any existing private or publicly subsidised upgrade schemes.

The company is publishing an extended list of 251 locations in the final third where it will build the new network over the next three years.The data provides more clarity on its plans – giving greater certainty to local authorities, investors and customers – and supports UK and Scottish Government strategy to accelerate commercial investments in full fibre networks throughout the UK.

To view the full list of market towns and villages included in the announcement, please visit https://www.openreach.com/fibre-broadband/.

People interested in seeing whether they can upgrade their broadband can see what’s available in their area by entering their postcode into our online fibre checker.

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