BROADBAND network engineers are being subjected to abuse from 5G theorists claiming it is causing coronavirus.

An increase in abuse directed at Openreach engineers, due to a mistaken belief they’re working on 5G, is hampering essential work to keep Lancashire and the wider North West region connected.

Openreach is the UK’s largest phone and broadband network, used by customers of BT, Sky and more, as they work to connect the region’s essential public services including GP surgeries, pharmacies and emergency services.

But recently, there has been an increase in incidents involving more than 3,500 engineers in the North West being subjected to mindless verbal abuse and intimidation.

Robert Thorburn, Openreach’s regional partnership director for the North, said: “These recent attacks on our engineers, here and elsewhere in the UK, is not only deeply concerning but totally misjudged.

“They’re playing a vital role in connecting crucial public services, vulnerable customers and millions of friends, families and businesses. They are not working on installing 5G.”

Engineers working on the broadband network in Preston were subjected to a lengthy tirade about the dangers of 5G.

Although no direct threats were made the man was aggressive and intimidating, preventing engineers from continuing their work.

In other parts of the North West, engineers have had bottles of water thrown at them, threatened with physical harm, warnings that the Openreach network will be damaged, and a huge amount of verbal abuse, including pretending to shoot at them with a gun hand gesture.

Mobile phone masts across the country have also been targeted in arson attacks as conspiracists claim the electromagnetic waves of the network have somehow induced the pandemic.

Mr Thorburn said: “At this time, they’re primarily focussed on the build, repair and maintenance of connections that support critical national infrastructure.

“This work includes the NHS, where our engineers have been installing and upgrading phone and broadband services in support of the new Nightingale hospitals, including in Manchester.”

Openreach engineers receive guidance and support in how to respond to any threats by members of the public where they feel unsafe.

As designated key workers, engineers are still carrying out nationally critical work, building new full fibre networks out in the street, but they won’t be entering customer’s homes unless there is a vulnerable customer without service.

Since the stay at home restrictions were introduced, there has been an increase of around 20 per cent in internet usage across the North West.