People-powered broadband comes to Swindon

15th June 2016

Later today I will be speaking at the Connected Britain conference talking about Virgin Media’s £3bn investment to expand our network to more parts of the UK.

As Project Lightning comes to more towns and cities, there are three factors which determine where we build:

  • Demand from local residents and businesses – interest registered through our ‘Cable My Street’ website
  • Distance from our existing core network
  • The distance between doorsteps – how many premises are in an area and how close they are to each other

These three elements are important to understand in the context of the latest town we’re expanding to – Swindon.

In my presentation I’ll be announcing that 7,000 homes and businesses in Swindon will be the latest premises to soon receive Virgin Media’s ultrafast speeds.

Swindon, however, is more than just another Lightning announcement. The demand from residents for faster fixed-line connectivity has been huge – and for good reason.

In Spring 2015 Swindon Borough Council announced plans to improve connectivity in certain areas of the town through the publicly funded BDUK scheme. The delivery method for this was a 4G mobile solution provided by UK Broadband (UKB). This means that residents will receive broadband wirelessly from masts dotted around areas of Swindon.

Understandably many residents felt short changed – taxpayer money was being used to fund a wireless solution in areas where private investment could provide fixed-line connectivity.

Harriet Maltby, a Priory Vale resident summarised the situation perfectly last year: “The residents of North Swindon made it very clear that fibre was the answer to local need, but the council are proceeding with this inadequate 4G scheme regardless. We urge the Council to listen to residents and pursue a fibre solution for the area.”

Virgin Media has spent the last year and a half speaking with residents and negotiating with local councillors to try and get certain areas removed from the state aid scheme so that fixed-line providers, such as Virgin Media, can connect premises and compete on a level playing field.

Unfortunately proposals to remove certain areas from any public funded broadband schemes were not successful.

Virgin Media strongly believes that public funding should only be used in areas where it is difficult for private providers to connect premises to superfast, or in our case ultrafast, broadband. Public funding should not be used in areas where it’s clear that private investment can do the job – this skews competition, deters further investment and most of all wastes taxpayers money.

However, in the case of Swindon it was clear that something needed to be done. We didn’t feel that it was right for residents not to receive the sort of connectivity they deserved and demanded, particularly when the expansion ticks all of the right boxes.

So, to the people and businesses of Swindon – while this situation is far from ideal we want to put aside the politics and give you the connectivity you need.  We’ve heard your calls for better broadband and we’re coming.

To the people in other areas not currently cabled by Virgin Media, our message is clear. Visit Cable My Street and register your interest. Tell your neighbours and communities to do the same. Your area could be next to receive ultrafast broadband and top class entertainment with not a penny of public money in sight.

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