Broadband boost for Scottish towns and villages as Openreach targets ‘harder to reach’ areas

Openreach today outlined plans to make ultrafast, ultra-reliable and future-proof broadband available in four rural Scottish locations – Findhorn in Moray; Anstruther in Fife; Kelso in the Scottish Borders and Stonehouse in South Lanarkshire.

It’s part of a bigger announcement involving ‘harder to reach’ areas across the UK, with building to start in the next 14 months. The four rural towns and villages will benefit as part of Openreach’s previously stated target to reach four million homes and businesses with ‘full fibre’ technology by the end of March 2021.

The build in Findhorn (including Kinloss), Anstruther (including Cellardyke and Pittenweem), Kelso (including Maxwellheugh and Sprouston) and Stonehouse is part of the company’s ambition to extend its new ‘full’ fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) network outside cities.

The work builds on successful cost busting village trials launched at the tail end of last year - including in Fife and West Lothian - which have seen engineers developing a range of new tools, skills and techniques to help Openreach build full fibre in areas previously considered too complex or expensive to upgrade.

Robert Thorburn, Openreach’s Partnership Director for Scotland, said: “This is great news for people living and working in these four towns and villages and builds on Openreach’s strong track record of working in rural areas.

“For years, we’ve played a key role alongside public sector partners to upgrade 94 per cent of Scotland to superfast broadband. Today’s announcement is about taking the next step and building a full fibre network that is not only faster, but also more reliable and future-proof for generations to come.

”We’re committing significant capital and resources to rural Scotland in the months and years ahead, including connecting up some of the hardest-to-reach locations in partnership with the Scottish Government.”

There are clear economic benefits to building full fibre in rural areas. In a report by the Centre for Economics & Business Research (Cebr) – Full fibre broadband: A platform for growth” - commissioned by Openreach in 2019, revealed that connecting everyone in Scotland to ‘full fibre’ broadband by 2025 would create a £4.5 billion boost to the nation’s economy.

The report also revealed that 37,400 people in Scotland could be brought back into the workforce through enhanced connectivity. This could include roles within small businesses and entrepreneurs – as well as allowing thousands more people to work remotely – by unlocking smarter ways of working, better public services and greater opportunities for the next generation of home-grown businesses.

Openreach’s CEO Clive Selley said: “Our full fibre build programme is going great guns - having passed more than two million premises already on the way to our four million target by March 2021. We’re now building at around 26,000 premises a week in over 100 locations – reaching a new home or business every 23 seconds. That’s up from 13,000 premises a week this time last year.

 “Openreach has always been committed to doing our bit in rural Britain - delivering network upgrades in communities that are harder to reach and less densely populated. We intend to build a significant portion of our full-fibre network in these harder to reach areas of the UK. Our ambition is to reach 15 million premises by mid-2020s if right investment conditions are in place.”

Openreach recently reached more than two million homes and businesses with full fibre technology and a quarter of its existing footprint already falls within rural areas. More than 120,000 UK homes and businesses have also signed up to Openreach’s Community Fibre Partnership (CFP) scheme. The CFP programme 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.

Around 3,200 Openreach people live and work in Scotland, with around 600 new trainees joining the company north of the border in the last two years.