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Virgin Media Criticised Again for “horrendous” Street Works in Scotland

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017 (2:18 pm) - Score 2,667
virgin media fibre optic laying with tom mockridge

Building a major new ultrafast broadband network isn’t easy and sometimes contractors don’t do the work properly. The latest example of this stems from Virgin Media’s street works in South Ayrshire, some of which have been described by local councillors as “horrendous.”

As most people know the cable (HFC DOCSIS) and FTTP operator is currently investing £3bn (Project Lightning) to expand the reach of their ultrafast broadband and TV network, which aims to cover around 65% of UK premises by 2019 (i.e. an extra 4 million premises on top of their existing footprint). This is a brilliant project, although like most major infrastructure builds it’s also attracted a few complaints (example).

This week councillors in South Ayrshire (Scotland) heard a report from the Ayrshire Roads Alliance, which has been overseeing Virgin Media’s roll-out in the region. The group noted that it had received various complaints about the quality of the operator’s street works and has already put in place a performance plan to resolve the problems, which appears to be showing improvement but some issues remain.

Councillor Ian Cavana, South Ayrshire’s Partnership Panel, said (Daily Record):

“Some of the work has been horrendous. It’s not so much what they’re doing but how they’re doing it. Our roads team are now having to go around and fix the problems, which is of obvious concern. My worry is that sooner or later, someone is going to get really hurt.”

Local councillors appear to be concerned that they could be left exposed to compensation claims if somebody hurts themselves as a result of the operator’s street works, although the article doesn’t offer a lot in the way of detail with regards to precisely what mistakes have been made.

Nevertheless the situation is such that Virgin Media will shortly be hauled before Scotland’s Roadworks Commissioner, Angus Carmichael, who will question the operator in Edinburgh about the conduct of their contractors. Carmichael has form in this area and only a few months ago he fined Cityfibre £35,000 for a “number of serious failures to comply with road works legislation” (here), it’s possible that Virgin Media could suffer the same.

However, unlike the fines imposed by Ofcom, Scotland’s Roadworks Commissioner is rather limited in the size of financial penalties that he can set. The Commissioner has statutory powers to issue financial penalties up to a maximum £50,000 where a utility company, or a roads authority, demonstrates a systematic failure to comply with their statutory duties. Hardly a big concern for a company of VM’s size.

Like it or not big network builds have 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. Local authorities usually order corrective work to take place, which is itself a costly exercise, but persistent failings can result in direct fines (as above).

In the longer term some disruption is usually a small price to pay for better connectivity. ISPreview.co.uk has asked the operator for a comment and we are awaiting a response.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Avatar Darren

    Knocked out a water main here which left thousands without water for 7 hours and have also damaged BT lines effecting service.

    Does the foreign owner of Virgin Media care? Doubt it. Meanwhile residents and utilities are left dealing with the trail of destruction.

  2. Avatar G.Lee

    Accidents happen with this sort of construction, specially when infrastructure maps aren’t accurate….

    It does make me laugh though, these areas that are the first to complain about lack of super fast broadband infrastructure in their areas are the first to complain when they start work to bring the newest forms of technology to their areas (theoretically then puttin them ahead of urban areas in terms of performance)

    Now I’m not going to say that any infrastructure provider has the right to leave an absolute mess or even cause potential health hazards but I’m sure it’s not in their rollout plan to destroy other utilities equipment whilst doing infrastructure builds.

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