Science & Tech

Why Britain is about to become a whole lot better connected

Broadband: The thing that gives us high-speed internet connections? What about it?

There’s going to be more of it around, thanks to Virgin Media. The company announced yesterday that it will invest £3bn connecting more businesses and households through its fibre-optic broadband cable network.

How many exactly?

A further four million by 2020. Virgin Media has a network that passes 12.6 million homes — about half of the UK. About one in three homes that are passed buy broadband from the company. A slightly smaller proportion also buy pay-television.

Are there going to be any other benefits?

Some 6,000 jobs are promised. The company estimates that the total wider economic benefits of the investment will add up to £8bn.

So is everyone happy?

Not everyone. Some expressed disappointment that Virgin Media’s investment would not be targeted at rural areas. “This still doesn’t address the ‘digital divide’ as the provider has clearly indicated that investment will focus on areas that are close to its existing infrastructure,” said Dominic Baliszewski, a telecoms analyst at broadbandchoices.

So who are Virgin Media? Are they owned by Sir Richard Branson?

Not exactly. Virgin Media was formed in 2007 following the merger of NTL and Telewest. It was acquired by US billionaire John Malone’s Liberty Global for £16bn in 2013. It now pays a fee to Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group for the use of the brand name.

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