Broadband: Engineers

Home Office written question – answered on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether her Department plans to provide support to broadband engineers working on upgrading the broadband network who fear abuse as a result of 5G conspiracy theories.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Minister of State, Home Department

Abuse, threats or harassment against telecoms engineers are unacceptable and where abuse against engineers does take place, the police should be notified so they can investigate and take appropriate action.

The UK telecommunications network consists of over 40,000 telecommunications masts and associated equipment that provides essential connectivity for everyone’s daily life. The security of these sites and the engineers working on them is primarily the responsibility of the companies which own the masts. The Government works closely with the telecommunications industry and we take the security and resilience of the UK’s telecommunications infrastructure and the safety of the industry’s key worker personnel very seriously.

We know that individuals are setting out to damage 5G masts and we have seen a number of unacceptable confrontations targeting telecoms engineers. These confrontations include a small number of assaults. The NCA has rapidly developed a nationally co-ordinated response. The response to these incidents has been a collaborative one, with law enforcement working alongside industry to combat the threat, we will do all we can to make sure that any criminality is dealt with swiftly and robustly. As part of this response, the NCA has issued guidance for the telecommunications industry to issue to their staff on what they can do to ensure they remain safe and what they should do in certain situations.

Much of the anti-5G conversation is taking place on social media. These conversations have enabled the spread of conspiracy theories relating to masts, particularly their links to the coronavirus. These are of course, unsubstantiated. The NCA and partners are engaged with Social Media companies to take action to limit the spread and impact of these conspiracy theories.

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