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Sat, 28 January 2023

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The largest engineering project you have never heard of...

The largest engineering project you have never heard of...
Catherine Colloms, Managing Director for Corporate Affairs and Brand

Catherine Colloms, Managing Director for Corporate Affairs and Brand | Openreach

3 min read Partner content

As you read this, Openreach is delivering one of the UK’s largest civil engineering projects. Building life-changing technology to over three million homes a year. That is faster than any other builder in the UK.

Unlike other major infrastructure projects, which are encountering a series of challenges, our team is successfully getting on with the job; building ultrafast, ultra-reliable full fibre broadband to 25 million homes across the whole of the UK. Our £15 billion investment in the UK, includes 6.2 million premises in ‘harder to reach’ predominantly rural areas.

As we continue to deliver a network fit for the digital economy of the future, we need to work in partnership with local and national government.

That is why we are asking that as a New Year’s resolution, politicians pledge their support to #BackBetterBroadband to enable us to continue delivering the largest engineering project that most have never heard of. 

Openreach inforgraphic

There are two significant barriers in particular that need to be addressed.

We all know that the economic climate is challenging and Openreach is not immune. Inflation is adding significant cost to our build through items such as fuel, energy, freight and logistics. To put it in context - the increase in our costs in 2022 alone is the equivalent to building to half a million premises. If the Government is serious about delivering gigabit-broadband to 85% of premises by 2025, backing capital investment to boost growth is essential.

First, as we approach the budget in March, we are asking government to commit to a successor to the super-deduction scheme. This vital support of industry enabled us to add a further five million premises to our build target and helped to create thousands of new engineering jobs.

With fewer commuting trips required, we estimate that full fibre broadband could reduce the nation’s CO2 emissions by 360,000 tonnes a year.

Secondly, we are asking for an expedited decision to allow flexi-permitting (which allows for one streetworks permit to cover multiple roads), building on the collaboration we saw over the pandemic. This change would improve the efficiency of the sector, making it easier to deliver vital broadband infrastructure on a greater scale. It would also reduce the potential cost to local authorities of having to process hundreds of thousands of new works’ permits, all while ensuring they play a key oversight role.

Addressing these barriers is crucial, as the nationwide roll-out has the potential to boost productivity by at least £59 billion.

That means entrepreneurs can build and run a business from their kitchen table. And when it scales, our network ensures businesses are able to access vital services such as cloud technology, which can offer real-time automated data analyses to help drive sales and maximise resource.

Coupled with the rise in home working, our network is supporting changes to where the UK’s workforce is located. With fewer commuting trips required, we estimate that full fibre broadband could reduce the nation’s CO2 emissions by 360,000 tonnes a year.

What is more, with a sharp increase in the number of people of working age neither working, nor looking for a job having increased since the pandemic, a full fibre connection can support carers and, or parents of dependent children to join, or re-enter the workforce. A fairer and greener society.

With broadband use having increased in 2022, and more data downloaded than ever before, let us collectively resolve that this year we #BackBetterBroadband and do everything possible to support the roll-out of full fibre broadband, through setting the right economic conditions and collectively creating a more efficient build process to ensure the benefits are reaped by all.  

Together, we can boost the UK’s digital future.

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