Openreach has this week provided some welcome news for broadband users in rural communities and locations, with a doubling of its rural full fibre deployment plan.
Openreach said it now plans to deliver full fibre broadband to another three million homes and businesses in some of the hardest to reach parts of the UK.
The previous target for rural full fibre was 3.2 million homes by December 2026. Now Openreach plans to reach 6.2 million homes and premises in rural locations in the same timeframe.
This 6.2 million premise target is a quarter of Openreach’s total FTTP (fibre to the premise) build.
It comes after Openreach earlier this month expanded its overall build out of Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) from 20 million premises by the mid- to late-2020s, to the new target of 25 million premises by December 2026.
Openreach seems to have expanded its rollout plan as it gained valuable experience and equipment (such as its Cleanfast machine) in full fibre deployments, which speeded up the process.
This, coupled with greater regulatory and economy certainty, after Ofcom in March agreed the pricing and other conditions, seems to have given BT the required reassurance to commit £12 billion of its own money for the rollout of FTTP.
People can check their postcode here for full fibre deployment information in their location.
In order to help Openreach deliver, it has undertaken its largest ever recruitment drive, with a further 1,000 new roles being created in 2021 on top of the 2,500 jobs which were announced in December 2020.
“Building a new broadband network across the UK is a massive challenge and some parts of the country will inevitably require public funding,” said Clive Selley, Openreach CEO. “But our expanded build plan means taxpayer subsidies can be limited to only the hardest to connect homes and businesses – and we hope to see other companies step forward to build in the most rural areas too.”
“This is a hugely complex, nationwide engineering project – second only to HS2 in terms of investment,” said Selley. “It will help level-up the UK because the impact of Full Fibre broadband stretches from increased economic prosperity and international competitiveness, to higher employment and environmental benefits.”
“We’re also delighted to continue bucking the national trend by creating thousands more jobs, with apprentices joining in their droves to start their careers as engineers.”
The government also welcomed Openreach’s expanded full fibre deployment in rural locations.
“We are levelling up the UK and taking hard-to-reach homes and businesses off buffer mode with a £5 billion investment in lightning-fast, next generation broadband,” noted Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden.
“I welcome Openreach’s ambitious plans to connect millions more rural homes to gigabit speeds,” said Dowden. “It means our funding can go even further to help those in need and will create thousands more high-skilled engineering jobs as we build back better from the pandemic.”
And rural broadband campaigners have also welcomed Openreach’s announcement.
“The Countryside Alliance welcomes this announcement by Openreach that they will be targeting the harder to reach communities in rural Britain,” said Sarah Lee, head of policy at the Countryside Alliance.
“This is certainly a step in the right direction after the government rolled back their commitment last year to deliver full fibre and gigabit capable broadband to the countryside by 2025,” said Lee. “The rural economy is already 16 percent less productive than the national average but has such big potential with more people working from home and opting for flexi-working.”
“If you were to level up the countryside by delivering connectivity the economy has the potential to grow by up to £43bn in England alone,” said Lee. “If we are to have a green recovery in this post Covid world then delivering digital connectivity must remain a priority and Openreach must be applauded for making this commitment.”
“This announcement is a real boost for millions more rural homes who are set to benefit from faster broadband,” added Mark Bridgeman, President of the Country Land & Business Association which represents 28,000 farmers, land managers and rural businesses across England and Wales.
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