FM supports engineers

Openreach boss welcomes backing for ‘abused’ staff

Openreach workers have been subject to abuse

Openreach has welcomed support for its key workers from the Scottish Government following reports of abusive behaviour towards staff and attacks on mobile facilities.

Nicola Sturgeon used her daily briefing to highlight the contribution of engineers during the coronavirus pandemic, thanking telecom workers for their role in keeping the country connected as people work and learn from home.

The company, the UK’s largest phone and broadband network, used by customers of BT, Sky, Plusnet, TalkTalk and others, has seen an increase in malicious incidents across the UK.

These include a small number in central Scotland with engineers subjected to verbal abuse and intimidation linked to a bogus 5G theory.

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A possible link is also being considered by police investigating arson attacks on the network in Glasgow at the end of April.

Across the UK Openreach saw more such incidents in April than in the whole of 2019, with the majority relating to theories circulating on social media channels that 5G is responsible for the coronavirus crisis.

Mobile phone masts have also been targeted in arson attacks as conspiracists claim the electromagnetic waves of the network have somehow induced the pandemic.

Brendan Dick, chairman of the Openreach board in Scotland, said: “Our engineers are doing everything they can do safely to keep Scotland connected during this crisis. The supportive words from the First Minister today help to explain to people why they’re visible on our streets. 

Brendan Dick

Brendan Dick: threats are deeply concerning (pic: Terry Murden)

“We’ve had a handful of cases in central Scotland where our engineers have been subject to verbal abuse and threats from members of the public, but even one is too many. It’s not only deeply concerning but totally misjudged. 

“Our engineers are playing a vital role in connecting crucial public services, vulnerable customers and millions of friends, families and businesses. As designated key workers, they’re primarily focused on the build, repair and maintenance of connections that support critical national infrastructure.

“This work includes NHS Scotland, where our engineers have been installing and upgrading phone and broadband services in support of staff, surgeries and hospitals, including the new NHS Louisa Jordan in Glasgow.

“We’re also carrying out work to boost broadband speeds and build new fibre network where it can be done safely out in the street – as reliable connectivity is not just essential now, but will be vital to support the Scottish economy as we enter recovery mode.”

Reliable connectivity is not just essential now, but will be vital to support the Scottish economy as we enter recovery mode

– Brendan Dick, Openreach

Openreach is the UK’s largest phone and broadband network – used by customers of BT, Sky, Plusnet, TalkTalk and many more – and plays a leading role in connecting Scotland’s essential public services including GP surgeries, pharmacies, emergency services, and food distribution outlets.

Usage across Openreach’s Scottish network increased by 58% in the last week compared to before lockdown, with nearly 90 Petabytes of data consumed compared to 57 Petabytes in a typical week before the restrictions came into effect. A Petabyte is equal to 1,000 terabytes or 1,000,000 gigabytes.

While the increase is mainly during daytime hours as more people are working from home and home schooling, last week also saw spikes believed to be related to gaming patches from Fortnite and Call of Duty.

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