‘Project Lightning’ to connect thousands more Scottish homes with ultrafast broadband

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Virgin Media says project has reached 100,000 premises but calls for government to tackle ‘hurdles’

Virgin Media has announced it will connect thousands more Scottish homes and businesses with ultrafast broadband in 2018 as part of its ‘Project Lightning’ expansion project.

The announcement was made at a Virgin Media event in Edinburgh, attended by the Scottish government’s cabinet secretary for the rural economy and connectivity, Fergus Ewing MSP, and local authority representatives from across Scotland.

The areas in Scotland due for the broadband upgrade are Bathgate, Bonnyrigg, Cranhill, Joppa, Jordanhill, Kilbirnie, Kilmarnock, Shettleston and Stepps.

Virgin Media said Project Lightning has connected 100,000 premises across Scotland with ultrafast (80Mbps) broadband since 2016.

The quad-player stated more than one million premises in Scotland can access the Virgin Media gigabit-ready broadband network which offers speeds up to 350Mbps.

The national average broadband speed is 42Mbps, according to an Ofcom report published in December last year.

The Liberty Global-backed firm aims to connect 17 million premises to its ultrafast broadband network.

Virgin Media also highlighted “challenging hurdles and barriers”, calling on the Scottish Government and local authorities to takle these in order to deliver efficient rollout of ultrafast broadband.

Hurdles

These include the creation of a new ‘notification’ wayleaves regime so absentee landlords cannot block leaseholder access to broadband, and long-term business rates relief for new broadband assets in its lifetime.

In the proposed new planning bill new homes should have access to multiple ultrafast networks, not just BT’s.

There should also be flexibility in the use of narrow trenching units and greater flexibility in operating multiple teams on site at any one time.

MSP Fergus Ewing said: “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 we meet our commitment to deliver 100 per cent superfast broadband access across Scotland by the end of 2021.”

Virgin Media Scotland regional director Julie Agnew added: “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 working more closely with the government and local authorities will help accelerate Scotland’s digital ambitions more effectively and efficiently.”

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