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Virgin's fibre network to reach another 7,000 homes in Swindon

Thursday, June 16th 2016 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Virgin Media is to expand its fibre network in Swindon following public opposition to a council-backed wireless scheme.

The company said yesterday it will roll out ultrafast broadband to 7,000 homes and businesses in the town as part of its £3bn Project Lightning programme.

Around 65,000 Swindon premises are already able to access Virgin services.

Work will start in the next two months and will be completed early next year.

Much of the expansion will take place in north-west Swindon covering the Haydon, Priory Vale and Blunsdon St Andrew areas.

Other areas currently without fibre coverage – including Greenmeadow, Old Town, Toothill and Eastleaze – will also benefit.

The announcement follows 18 months of negotiations between Virgin Media, Swindon councillors and residents unhappy about another broadband scheme planned for the town.

Cable.co.uk reported last year on Swindon Borough Council’s plan to increase superfast broadband coverage in the town using 4G.

A £2m deal with wireless provider UKB Networks was supposed to take superfast coverage to around 20,000 homes, but planning permission was refused in March for five masts needed to deliver the technology.

Residents and opposition councillors have also criticised the use of public money in areas that could be covered by privately funded broadband rollouts.

Paul Buttery, Virgin’s chief operating officer, said: “The calls from residents in Swindon for better, faster broadband have been heard and Virgin Media will soon be bringing our ultrafast connectivity and top-notch entertainment to more parts of the town.

'Put aside the politics'

“This investment demonstrates that under Project Lightning, Virgin Media will build to areas which no other fixed broadband provider has previously been able to connect.

“Given that public funding has been used in some areas of Swindon to fund a mobile broadband solution, it’s vital that local authorities properly assess the prospect of private investment before using taxpayer’s money to fund broadband rollout.”

Writing in a blog on Virgin’s website, Mr Buttery said the company had proposed that certain areas be removed from any publicly-funded broadband schemes, allowing fixed-line providers to compete “on a level playing field”.

He said that while the proposal was not successful, Virgin wanted to “put aside the politics” such was the demand from local residents and businesses.

Swindon North MP Justin Tomlinson said: “This is a significant and very much welcome boost for fellow Swindon residents.

“There is absolutely no doubt there will be huge demand, especially as for many it will be the first time they have access to genuinely superfast fibre broadband.”

Cllr Toby Elliott, Swindon council’s cabinet member responsible for superfast broadband, said: “Residents and businesses across the town have been calling for this quality, high speed, fibre broadband for some time.

“Justin Tomlinson MP, the ward councillors and myself have worked with Virgin Media for over a year to deliver this and I couldn't be more delighted about their investment in Swindon.”

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