Digital network provider extends services to ‘hard to reach’ NW locations

Homes and businesses in more than 20 North West villages, market towns and rural areas are set to benefit from an extensive roll-out of services by Openreach.

It revealed plans to make ultra-reliable and gigabit-capable full fibre broadband available to a range of locations, including Kendal, Penrith, Barrow-in-Furness Irby, Skelmersdale, Poulton-le-Fylde, Barnoldswick, Nantwich and Sandbach.

The upgrades will be carried out without taxpayer subsidy and it is hoped having access to some of the fastest broadband speeds in Europe will boost the post-COVID economic recovery for the locations.

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

The new 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’.

The build is at the forefront of a massive £12bn 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 in the North of England, said: “We’ve already upgraded hundreds of thousands of homes and businessess across the North West to full fibre.

“As well as keeping the existing network running throughout the COVID 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.”

A report by the Centre for Economics & Business Research, commissioned by Openreach last year, revealed that connecting everyone in the North West to ‘full fibre’ broadband by 2025 would create a £5.5bn boost to the region’s economy.

The report also revealed that 54,000 people in the region 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 chief executive, 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.”

He said it is industry watchdog Ofcom’s proposals that give the right conditions to build commercially in 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 has already built full fibre technology to more than three million premises across the UK, including in excess of 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 which 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 full list of North West locations included in today’s announcement is: Barnoldswick, Kendal, Lytham, Poulton-Le-Fylde, St Annes, Whalley, Barrow-in -Furness, Dalton-in-Furness, Harrington, Millom, Penrith, Walney, Workington, Irby, Skelmersdale, Hartford, Northwich, Nantwich, Sandbach, Greenbank, Winnington and Barnton.