Working to keep Scotland connected during coronavirus

Openreach provides the biggest telephone and broadband network in the UK, available to more than 31.8 million premises, and used by hundreds of service providers such as BT, Sky and TalkTalk. We make 300 million telephone calls and 350 million internet connections possible every day.

Our 25,000-strong team of frontline engineers have been designated as key workers, so we have introduced new ways of working to keep our people, and the communities they serve, safe as they work to keep Scotland connected throughout the Coronavirus pandemic.

With unprecedented numbers of people now both working from home and keeping in touch with the outside world via the internet, Openreach recognises its important role in keeping the network working effectively so people can both work and socialise remotely.

That said, the safety of both engineers and the public comes first and, based on the new government guidance, it is now prioritising essential work.

In terms of capacity, its network already manages very heavy usage in the evenings when people are streaming movies or gaming. The types of applications that people use heavily outside of work – like Netflix, Amazon Prime or Sky Go – use more bandwidth than typical working tools like email, collaboration software or even voice and video conferencing. It has not seen any significant issues across broadband or the phone network.

Openreach has seen a c.28 per cent increase in daytime usage over its fibre network across the UK when compared to last week and a c.83 per cent increase over the last four weeks. The maximum peak traffic in daytime is between 2pm and 5pm, while the evening peak traffic is between 8pm and 11pm. This is in line with what was expected and not as high as the usage levels it is still seeing during evening peak times.

  • Focus is on the repair and maintenance of connections that support critical national infrastructure (such as the NHS, pharmacies, emergency services or retail and wholesale food distribution outlets and other categories defined by government), essential public services, vulnerable customers and those without any service.
  • Engineers will no longer enter customer premises unless they fit into one of the categories above and, even then, will only enter when they absolutely must. Where we can, repairs will be completed from outside the premises - more often than not this will be enough to ensure service is restored.
  • New services will only be provided where possible without going inside unless the service is essential - for example to provide service to a vulnerable customer or a critical national infrastructure. Communication providers will help identify and prioritise these groups.
  • Working through any potential impact on the full fibre build programme and talking to the Scottish and UK Governments to factor in the new guidelines.
  • All engineers will practise ‘social distancing’ while they are at work. For example only one engineer per van.
  • Any engineer showing any symptoms of Covid-19 will self-isolate and will be fully supported until they come back to work.
  • All measures will be reviewed and updated regularly based on Scottish and UK Government advice.
  • Across Scotland, around 3,200 people are employed by Openreach, most of them engineers.

Catherine Colloms, Openreach’s managing director of Corporate Affairs, said: “We know that what Openreach does is critical and connecting people has never been more important. That’s why many of our roles have been given ‘key worker’ status. We hope you can understand why we are introducing these new measures. Our engineers are real people, many with families, and we want to protect them at all times. We are doing our best to balance that responsibility with our responsibility to keep the UK connected.”Learn more about the changes here.

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