Virgin Media has identified Chester as a key location for expanding superfast broadband to 45,000 premises in an investment worth more than £20m.
The scheme will be rolled out under the company’s £3bn Project Lightning programme which aims to reach 4m UK premises by 2020 – making it the largest investment in digital communications in a decade.
It says: “Project Lightning would deliver Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) within the project area, giving residents and businesses opportunity to access ultrafast broadband speeds of up to 200Mbps (and 300Mbps for small businesses and home workers).
“Virgin Media is currently working with Cheshire West and Chester highway officers to plan the most efficient delivery mechanisms and to keep disruption to residents and road users to a minimum. Virgin Media is also working with the council on ways to inform local communities of the likely disruption and long term benefits of ultrafast broadband and to inform businesses of the forthcoming increase in coverage and speed.”
Project Lightning is demand-led, with residents and businesses able to register interest at Cable My Street. The council is working closely with Virgin Media to identify if any other areas could benefit.”
CWaC is already involved in the Connecting Cheshire programme which has delivered fibre broadband to more than 85,000 premises across Cheshire, Warrington and Halton since 2012.
Connecting Cheshire is currently half way through its second phase of delivery, with 91 per cent of the borough’s premises currently receiving speeds of 24Mbps or more. The project will soon start a third phase of delivery, aiming to reach additional premises across the borough by June 2018.
These are the targets for numbers of connected premises within Cheshire West and Chester:
■ Phase 1 – 35,700
■ Phase 2 – 3,800 (due to complete spring 2017)
■ Phase 3 – 2,390 (due to complete by the end of 2018)
The briefing adds: “Some challenges remain, particularly in more rural parts of the borough and outlying settlements. Currently around 0.7 per cent of premises receive less than 2Mbps, but the additional coverage is being rolled out to improve this position. For areas outside the current planned roll-out a £350 broadband subsidy is available for premises receiving less than 2Mbps towards the installation of a satellite, wireless or community funded broadband service."
Delivery of superfast broadband is a key priority for the council as outlined in policy documents ‘Well Connected and Accessible Borough’ and ‘Great Place to do Business’.