Openreach to prioritise 'essential' work and halts home visits during coronavirus

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Openreach has confirmed its engineers will only carry out essential repairs and maintenance to its broadband network during the coronavirus outbreak.

In a televised address on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the public to stay at home other than to shop for “essentials” or for exercise “once a day”.

Groups of more than two participants, other than those who live together or families, will be dispersed by the police and offenders fined.

Openreach customers

With the majority of the country now confined to their properties, the UK’s broadband network will inevitable come under pressure from people working, communicating and accessing entertainment services.

As ‘key workers’, Openreach engineers are free to continue their work. However in order to protect its workers and the general public, the company will restrict its activities to prioritise critical customers – such as the NHS, emergency services and food retailers – and to minimise social interaction.

Essentially this means that customers looking to switch providers may not be able to do so during the restrictions if it requires access to property. Vulnerable users or those who lack a connection entirely may be exceptions however.

“The safety of our people and the public comes first and, based on the new guidance, we’re now prioritising essential work,” said Openreach.

“That means we’re focussing on the repair and maintenance of connections that support critical national infrastructure, essential public services, vulnerable customers and those without service. And our [Communication provider] customers are helping us to identify and prioritise these groups.

“We’ve also advised our engineers to avoid entering customer premises. A large amount of our work we do can be completed outside, and we can often fix problems without entering a customer's property – so we’re advising them not to complete any work inside a property unless it would leave a vulnerable customer with no form of connection, and it's not possible to provide one by any other means.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.