Virgin Media has announced a boost for Scotland with its plans to connect thousands more Scottish homes and businesses in 2018 as part of its Project Lightning ultrafast broadband expansion programme.
Areas which will be benefitting this year include: Bathgate; Bonnyrigg; Cranhill; Joppa; Jordanhill; Kilbirnie; Kilmarnock; Shettleston; and Stepps.
The plans were made public at a Virgin Media event in Edinburgh attended by Fergus Ewing MSP, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, as well as local authority representatives from across Scotland.
Project Lightning has now connected more than 100,000 premises across Scotland to ultrafast broadband since 2016. More than one million premises in Scotland are now able to access Virgin Media’s gigabit-ready broadband network which offers speeds up to 350Mbps, the fastest widely-available in the UK.
This continued expansion by Virgin Media will be a boost to Scotland with its network offering download speeds more than eight times faster than the national average (42Mbps*).
The event was also attended by Angus Carmichael, the Scottish Road Works Commissioner, as well as members of the Scottish Futures Trust. The occasion was held to explain how Virgin Media will carry out the work to extend its network, from maintaining close partnerships with local authorities to its community engagement plans.
Virgin Media also stressed that there are numerous challenging hurdles and barriers which restrict its ability to roll-out its ultrafast broadband network as efficiently as it would like. Virgin Media has called on the Scottish Government and Local Authorities to take action on a range of issues:
- create a new ‘notification’ wayleaves regime so that absentee landlords cannot block leaseholder access to broadband;
- introduce long-term business rates relief for all new broadband assets for the lifetime of full fibre rollout;
- provision, in the proposed new Planning Bill, that new homes should have access to multiple ultrafast networks not just BT’s;
- an ability to be flexible in our use of narrow trenching units;
- greater flexibility to operate multiple teams on site at any one time.
Julie Agnew, Scotland Regional Director for Virgin Media, said: “Scotland has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of our Project Lightning programme and we are planning to connect thousands more homes and businesses this year. We hope that working more closely with the Government and local authorities will help accelerate Scotland’s digital ambitions more effectively and efficiently.”
Fergus Ewing MSP, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, added: “I welcome this announcement by Virgin Media and I am encouraged by their promise to connect thousands more Scottish homes and businesses in 2018, building on their current rollout in Scotland. This reaffirms that our approach to our R100 programme is working.
“By focusing our £600 million investment in Scotland’s rural areas, while creating the right environment to encourage the likes of Virgin Media to invest in our urban areas, we are ensuring that we meet our commitment to deliver 100% superfast broadband access across Scotland by the end of 2021.”
Backed by parent company Liberty Global, Virgin Media has connected more than 1.1 million premises to its ultrafast broadband network through Project Lightning since 2015. It plans to connect additional premises which could extend the total reach of its network to up to 17 million homes and businesses. This private investment programme makes Virgin Media the largest new broadband builder in the UK over the past two years, more than all of its competitors combined.