Openreach engineer at work

OPENREACH has announced plans to extend its ultra-fast broadband network to 60 towns and villages across Scotland, including more remote and rural areas.

Aviemore, Campbeltown, Cumnock, Dunbar, Kilsyth, Peebles and Thurso are among the places chosen.

Other include Dumfries, Lanark, Stonehaven, Elgin and West Kilbride.

Work is expected to start at many of the locations within the next 12-18 months, although it will continue into 2024 in some areas and is hoped to aid economic recovery from Covid-19.

The BT-owned firm – which maintains the telephone cables, cabinets and exchanges that connect buildings across the country – said the announcement is part a £12 billion investment to deliver full fibre broadband to 20 million premises throughout the UK by the mid to late 2020s.

The 60 places in Scotland are part of 251 earmarked across the UK for the new network.

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.”

He added: “Full fibre is more reliable and more resilient – meaning fewer faults and more predictable, consistent speeds.

“It’s also ‘future-proofed’ to easily meet the growing data demands of future technologies.”

Connecting the whole of Scotland to full fibre broadband by 2025 would boost the economy by £5.5 billion, according to a report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research commissioned by Openreach last year.

The report also revealed 37,400 people across Scotland could be brought back into the workforce through enhanced connectivity.

Scotland’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 roll-out 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.”