Openreach engineers are beginning a “phased return” to home visits, resuming repairs and installations of some products, including new full-fibre connections.
Openreach suspended many new broadband and phone installations, repairs and engineer visits in late March to comply with social distancing guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic.
While Openreach was still performing “essential work” to maintain broadband infrastructure and telecoms workers have been designated key workers by the government, many new installations, especially of new FTTP (full fibre) and G.fast lines, were paused. In response, some ISPs which use Openreach’s infrastructure withdrew the related products from sale.
In contrast, many alternative network providers pushed ahead with rollouts of fibre. Trade body INCA (Independent Networks Cooperative Network) said the delivery of ultrafast broadband infrastructure must continue despite the pandemic—especially as people rely more on the internet to perform their jobs and stay in touch with family and friends.
INCA CEO Malcolm Corbett said: “With lockdown conditions unlikely to be lifted completely for some time to come, people across the country are getting used to working from home and are relying more than ever on the internet for keeping in touch and to provide entertainment as they observe social distancing guidelines.”
At the time Openreach indicated they hoped to resume normal service around 1 June. That date is approaching and lockdown restrictions are being relaxed and Openreach has now confirmed they will have engineers resume some in-home work this week, with precautions.
A spokesperson for the company told ISPreview: “After careful consideration and following the Public Health England guidance, we’re going to conduct a phased return to working inside customers’ homes and businesses, starting from today [Monday, 18 May].
“We’ll still prioritise working from outside the property first, and we’ll only go inside if the provision or repair job is low risk and takes a short amount of time.”
Openreach said it would continue to review its processes to safeguard the health and safety of its employees and customers.
Part of Openreach’s concern will be protecting its staff from believers of the baseless 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory. BT, owner of Openreach, has reported that dozens of its engineers have been the subject of verbal and physical attacks from members of the public who believe the new mobile technology facilitates the spread of COVID-19.
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