Openreach today outlined plans to make ultra-fast broadband available in 22 market towns and villages across Lancashire.
The move is part of a bigger announcement involving 227 "harder to reach" areas across the UK, with building scheduled to start in the next 14 months.
It is part of Openreach’s previously stated target to reach four million homes and businesses with "full fibre" technology by the end of March 2021.
The new locations in Lancashire, including Knott End, Rufford, Fleetwood, Garstang, West Bradford and Croston, are part of the company’s ambition to extend its new ‘full’ fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) network outside cities.
The work builds on successful cost busting village trials launched at the tail end of last year - including Hesketh Bank and Parbold - which have seen engineers developing a range of new tools, skills and techniques to help Openreach build full fibre in areas previously considered too complex or expensive to upgrade.
Robert Thorburn, Openreach’s Partnership Director in the North of England, said: “This is great news for people living and working here and builds on Openreach’s strong track record of working in rural areas, for years playing a key role alongside local councils to upgrade more than 97 per cent of the North West to superfast broadband.
"Today’s announcement is about taking that next step and building a full fibre network that is not only faster, but also more reliable and future-proof for generations to come.”
A report by the Centre for Economics & Business Research - “Full fibre broadband: A platform for growth” - commissioned by Openreach in 2019, revealed that connecting everyone in the North West to ‘full fibre’ broadband by 2025 would create a £5.5 billion boost to the region’s economy.
The report also revealed that 54,000 people in the region could be brought back into the workforce through enhanced connectivity.
This could include roles within small businesses and entrepreneurs – as well as allowing thousands more people to work remotely., by unlocking smarter ways of working, better public services and greater opportunities for the next-generation of home-grown businesses.
Openreach recently reached over two million homes and businesses with full fibre technology and a quarter of its existing footprint already falls within rural areas.
More than 120,000 homes and businesses – including around 7,000 in North West - have also signed up to Openreach’s Community Fibre Partnership (CFP) scheme. The CFP programme enables the company to work with a local community to build a customised co-funded solution and bring fibre broadband to areas not included in any existing private or publicly subsidised upgrade schemes.
More than 3,500 Openreach people live and work in the North West.
The towns and villages involved in the next wave are : Brinscall, Abbey Village, Wheelton, Withnell, Burscough, West Bradford, Waddington, Clitheroe, Pendleton, Croston, Eccleston, Fleetwood, Garstang, Calder Vale, Great Eccleston, Elswick, Hambleton, Knott End-On-Sea, Preesall, Longridge, Rufford and Mawdesley.