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Virgin Media’s Cable Expansion in Liverpool Stalled by Shoddy Street Works

Monday, June 19th, 2017 (7:45 am) by Mark Jackson (Score 1,369)
virgin media fttp and docsis deployment swindon

The Liverpool City Council has kept the expansion of Virgin Media’s ultrafast cable broadband and TV network on hold since February 2017 because of “serious issues” (damage to highways, poor reinstatement, site safety etc.) with the street works being conducted by contractors.

At present the cable operator is spending around £3bn on a major network expansion (Project Lightning), which aims to cover a total of 17 million UK premises by 2019 (i.e. 4 million extra premises, 2 million of which will be done with FTTP) and this should boost their coverage of the United Kingdom to around 60-65%.

The downside of such a positive project is that it requires significant new civil engineering (street works etc.), which has a natural tendency to cause a lot of disruption and that’s particularly true when working in dense urban areas where a lot of people will be affected (especially if the work isn’t conducted properly).

Suffice to say that complaints soon stack up and local authorities then have to take action, which usually involves ordering the contractors to correct their mistakes. We’ve seen countless examples of this from all of the major telecoms infrastructure builders.

Similarly the Liverpool City Council claims to have found all sorts of problems with Virgin Media’s roll-out, which also included evidence of open trenches without barriers and using footway boards at vehicle access points. “To continue working in this manner could have led to a serious accident,” said LCC to The Times (paywall).

A Spokesperson for Virgin Media said:

“Where remedial work needs to take place we are committed to ensuring this is completed to the highest quality. Getting relevant permissions is a vital part of ensuring we can bring ultrafast broadband to more parts of the UK and Ireland. We urge all local authorities to work with us so that investment isn’t held back in their areas.”

Apparently both sides are making progress in reaching an agreement to resolve the dispute; although clearly Virgin Media has yet to satisfy the council that they can meet the required standards, otherwise the deployment wouldn’t still be stuck in limbo.

As always it’s easy to moan about a lack of fibre optic broadband but building such networks is rarely possible without a fair bit of disruption, which can itself attract plenty of complaints from residents. Contractors can at least mitigate this by conducting their work properly and keeping local residents fully apprised of their plan on a day-to-day basis.

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10 Responses
  1. Steve Jones

    I recall that when cable TV networks were being installed en-mass during the 1990s, there were many such complaints over shoddy workmanship. It’s always likely to happen when contractors are under time and budget pressures or even, dare I say, just a general tendency by some to take short-cuts. Unfortunately doing a good job takes time and money. If it’s only one city that has this issue, then VM are doing fairly well.

    • CarlT

      There were a few relatively minor issues in Leeds with regards to reinstatement but certainly nothing of this scale.

      There has been plenty of remedial reinstatement but nothing meriting the halting of the, almost complete, rollout.

      Inevitably VM are at the mercy of their contractors and they’ll be of wildly varying quality even in the same area let alone across different cities.

  2. As someone’s who’s literally closing on a new build house this week in Liverpool……..****.

    • MikeW

      New Build? Then this doesn’t affect you.

      You either already have a VM connection included as part of the build, or you aren’t going to get one for many years – at minimum when the roads are adopted, but more likely after an additional period where the council will insist on full reinstatement after roadworks.

    • As we always say, before you complete make sure to confirm in writing with the developer that a superfast broadband or better connection will be available when you move into the property. Verbal agreements are useless but at least if you have it in writing then there’s some ammunition in storage.

    • MikeW

      “at least if you have it in writing then there’s some ammunition in storage”

      If connectivity depends on some nebulous “future works”, then further ammunition can be stored by witholding part of the payment until those works are complete.

      For the last new-build we bought, the solicitor added a clause witholding £500 until the roads were adopted. I’d do the same thing nowadays (with a higher sum) for any promised broadband connection, whether copper or fibre.

    • Bob de Builder

      Unless there is a section 38 agreement in place then the roads will never be adopted or constructed to an adoptable standard and lots of residents on new builds are saddled with paying the full council tax and then paying management charges to get the roads and drains cleaned on their “private” road!

  3. James

    Just like the network and the service it provides, shoddy

  4. Jessica McMahon

    I was one of the residents affected by Virgin Media and their contractors in Aintree.
    They had open trench where you had to step over to gain access to the property. I spoke to one of the council inspectors who informed me they cut through a water box cover with a saw causing damage which is literally outside of my house.
    The amount of faults was also excessive and the contractor has been back 3 times already and still the council are not happy with the workmanship.
    I say good on Liverpool Council for stepping up and stopping these cowboys after all it’s us the taxpayers and residents who are affected in the long run.

  5. Kirsty Marie

    I work near Aintree and travel every day from Wrexham. At the time of your disruption, I also experienced problems with ongoing work around Aintree that caused access around the area to be restricted. However, this same work was being carried out on my street in Wrexham by a contractor also for virgin media and the quality of their work and access to my property was brilliant. The contractor was in and out of my and the surrounding streets in a maximum of 3 days. Virgin Media should consider employing the same contractors as those working around my area. The name of the company was Lite Access Technologies. By the looks of it, they have great knowledge and experience of working in communities without causing disruption to our homes.

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