Publication - Factsheet

Coronavirus (COVID-19): statement to telecommunications operators on build and maintenance of networks

A statement to telecommunications operators signposting them to existing guidance on critical national infrastructure and construction sectors.

9 Apr 2020
Coronavirus (COVID-19): statement to telecommunications operators on build and maintenance of networks

The Scottish Government issued updated COVID-19 guidance for businesses on 4 April 2020 regarding social distancing and also providing advice for those businesses which fall within one of the 13 Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) sectors on what they must do if they continue to operate in terms of protecting the health and wellbeing of their workforces.

The Scottish Government issued further COVID-19 guidance on 6 April 2020 that sets out advice for the construction industry and provides further detail for the country’s designated 13 Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) sectors:

This guidance confirms that Telecommunications (including broadband and mobile) is one of those CNI sectors, but states that even where businesses are in the CNI category and judge themselves exempt from closure of business premises, it is imperative that they keep open only those premises or parts of premises that are truly critical or essential to the national COVID-19 effort.   

It is clear that telecommunications is vital in supporting our health and emergency services alongside the importance of the network as more and more people have become reliant on digital connectivity for work, for study and to keep in touch with family and friends.  

As with other CNI utilities, delivery of essential and critical maintenance in support of the COVID-19 effort are ‘urgent works’ that should be continued to safeguard the telecommunications network - but only where social distancing guidance can be adhered to. This includes works at CNI sites (such as healthcare facilities), works to support other CNI sectors (such as energy), and also the maintenance and repair of broadband and sites that serve mobile connectivity. 

The UK Government recently published guidance on their Digital Connectivity Portal. Whilst the paragraph on ‘streetworks’ does not apply in Scotland, given that is a devolved matter, the rest of the guidance makes clear that landowners and occupiers of land who have entered into agreements with providers of telecommunications networks should continue to meet their obligations under those agreements.

On new and planned deployment of fibre and mobile networks (where it does not serve CNI sites or sectors), guidance for the construction sector provides further useful advice on what is and is not appropriate in this regard, whilst strictly adhering to social distancing guidelines. It may be, for example, that deployment in more rural areas which have no or limited broadband and mobile connectivity currently, lends itself more easily to wider distancing from the general public and avoiding built up residential districts. Works of this nature can be supported by the Scottish Road Works Commissioner as ‘urgent and emergency works’ and where this is the case, must be reflected in the detail of the associated works notification in the Scottish Road Works Register.  

The guidance will kept under continued review and, if the Scottish Government observes any pattern of behaviours that suggests the distancing guidelines are not being adhered to by the industry in practice, then we would revisit whether the position on new and planned deployment continues to be sustainable.


Scottish Government

9 April 2020