Full-fibre broadband offers 'game-changer' for Scottish economy, adding 76,000 jobs

Wiring up Scotland with full-fibre broadband could be a “game-changer” for the economy, adding tens of thousands of jobs, new research suggests.

A report conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) think-tank shows that a comprehensive full-fibre network in Scotland could enable 76,000 people to enter the workforce.

The study, which was commissioned by Openreach, also reveals that a nationwide rollout would allow 24,000 people to expand the hours they are able to work if they wanted. And helping carers, parents and over-65s to access employment could contribute almost £2 billion in gross value added to the Scottish economy.

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Openreach, the digital network business spun out of BT, is investing hundreds of millions on a high-speed fibre rollout to 90 Scottish towns and cities, including 60 locations in the hard-to-reach “final third” of the country.

Katie Milligan, chair of Openreach Scotland. Picture: Jeff Holmes

The firm noted that more than 600,000 Scottish homes and business can already access full-fibre and other ultrafast technology through the range of service providers that use its network.

Katie Milligan, the new chairman of Openreach Scotland, said: “This report illustrates just how game-changing the roll out of full fibre broadband across Scotland’s rural and remote communities could be.

“The pandemic has reinforced public recognition of the importance of high-quality broadband and we’re clear that fibre has a significant part to play in Scotland’s recovery.

“The CEBR findings show accelerating the build would pay huge dividends to Scotland’s economy as a whole and be instrumental in bringing people back into the workforce who haven’t previously had the ability to navigate other commitments or find opportunities in their local area.”

She added: “We look forward to working closely with the next Scottish government to remove red tape and deliver access to full fibre to thousands more people – through our commercial programmes and in partnership - and supporting Scotland’s economic recovery.”

At a UK level, the report found that the nationwide rollout of full-fibre broadband could bring up to a million people back into the workforce, save 700,000 tonnes of CO2 emitted from car commuting trips and support 500,000 people to move from urban to more rural areas.

Last month, BT said it planned to “build like fury” and spend billions of pounds rolling out full-fibre broadband to 20 million homes in the UK no later than the end of the decade.

A long-awaited decision by industry regulator Ofcom will allow the firm to secure the returns on investment bosses had been hoping for and provide clarity over pricing for the next ten years, the telecoms giant added.

The Openreach wholesale division will see no regulation or price caps on its new fibre services but will be able to increase prices on its older copper networks in line with inflation for the next ten years.

The increase in costs on the older networks will encourage customers to switch to the new full-fibre services and the extra cash will go towards the rollout and get investors the returns they were expecting.

Major industry players broadly welcomed the Ofcom decision.

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