Virgin Media confirms it has no plans to extend network in Bradley Stoke

Virgin Media.

Cable company Virgin Media has confirmed that it has no current plans to extend its network in Bradley Stoke, claiming that demand for its services is “well below” the level required to justify investment.

The news is revealed in a letter to the Town Council, which had asked the company for an update on it plans after rival telecoms operator BT repeatedly snubbed Bradley Stoke in its superfast broadband rollout programme.

Around 5,000 of the 9,000 homes in Bradley Stoke have access to Virgin’s cable service but the remaining 4,000 are dependent on BT’s telephone lines for their broadband service (including those who subscribe to services from companies like TalkTalk and Sky, which run over BT lines). Because Bradley Stoke doesn’t have its own telephone exchange, the long line lengths from the exchanges in Almondsbury and Filton mean that the internet speeds achieved by consumers can be less than a tenth of the national average.

In the letter, Virgin Media’s Public Affairs Manager Dan Butler writes:

“Virgin Media makes decisions on whether to extend our network to new areas on a strict cost-per-home rationale. Unfortunately, it is clear from our most recent cost assessment that the cost-per-home of building network in Bradley Stoke far exceeds our investment case. Virgin Media would need to see levels of uptake in the region of 75 % to 80% of homes for the investment case to stack up.”

At last week’s Full Council meeting, Cllr Rob Jones commented that the latest response from Virgin Media was not unexpected as they had said the same several years ago. He added that he was confident that a final solution to the broadband problems in the town would eventually be found.

BT has said that it aims to complete its commercial rollout of superfast broadband by spring 2014 and it is believed that there will be just one further announcement of the exchanges that are to be included. If Almondsbury (serving 01454 numbers) does not appear on that list, consumers on those lines will have to look to the state-aided broadband investment programme that is being managed locally by South Gloucestershire Council.

The District Council has said it expects to sign a contract with BT by the end of January and complete its infrastructure investment by 2015. However, it is only aiming to bring superfast broadband to 90% of properties in the district, so there is currently no cast-iron guarantee that Bradley Stoke will benefit from the investment.

However, one Journal reader recently reported on Twitter that he had been assured by local MP Jack Lopresti, during a doorstep conversation, that the town is “assured highspeed broadband” as part of the deal between BT and SGC:

The upgrading of BT’s Filton exchange (serving 0117 numbers) was announced in April 2011, but most BT customers in Bradley Stoke that are connected to that exchange are still unable to order superfast broadband services. According to a checker on the BT Openreach website, the estimated date for availability of the Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) service at an property in Tarragon Place (Bradley Stoke South) is currently 30th June 2013.

Virgin Media is not eligible for state aid because its operates a closed network that is not made available to other telecoms companies.

One Journal reader who uses the Virgin cable network recently boasted of an average connection speed of 62Mbps, although another reader pointed out that the Virgin network in Bristol has suffered from slow speeds recently, especially in the evenings.

The company has also been criticised by Journal readers for wasting thousands of pounds delivering promotional literature to streets in Bradley Stoke where its cable network is not available.

Photo: Cllr Robert Jones is interviewed by the BBC Politics Show West in a piece about the campaign to get Virgin Media to cable more streets in Bradley Stoke [Photo, from 2009, courtesy of the Bradley Stoke Examiner].

Related link: Better Broadband Campaign (The Journal)

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  1. I’m not familiar with the complexities of phone lines. But instead of going on about fibre optic/cable which seems to be taking forever and not happening… How much would it cost/ is it possible to build a Bradley stoke exchange. Atleast then could get faster broadband through the phone lines here.

  2. We are certainly lagging behind the French this is part of an article the BBC produced in 2007.

    Are you happy with the speed of your broadband? A comparison of fast broadband in London and Paris, shows it is a far, far better thing to head to the French capital if you want to surf at speed.

    Before leaving for Paris, I checked my own home connection. It offers 2Mbps – pretty typical for London – and was working at a respectable 1.6Mbps when I used an online speed test.

    In theory, you can now get up to 24Mbps from a couple of UK providers. In practice, hardly anyone gets that speed and even those on 8Mbps broadband were getting an average of just 2.7Mbps in a recent test carried out by Which?

    In Paris, though, there is a bewildering amount of choice if you want fast broadband.

    “A few years ago there was virtually nothing,” Guillaume Kuch told me when I visited his apartment in the Paris suburb of Neuilly.

    “Now all sorts of companies are offering at least 10Mbps.”

    Sparked investment

    Guillaume is paying 14 Euros a month (around £10) for a 12Mbs connection and free phone calls. That’s about half as much as I pay in London for something one sixth as fast.

    What has sparked investment in broadband is France is the low take-up of digital television, which makes it more attractive to offer TV over the internet.

  3. So much for Jack Lopresti and his Conservative colleauges being the saviours of Bradley Stoke. Now remind me again, what have they acheived since being elected?
    Cynical Sid, oopps sorry JonBoy

  4. There goes the last hope, so now we wait till 201? to get something that the current Government of the day says is important. I suspose that is what you get for living in an out of the way place just on the outskirts of Bristol, with 9,000 other people. Looking forward to my next mail shot from Virgin.

  5. Why can’t BSTC or SGC help fund the connecting of the 20, or so, phone cabinets in Bradley Stoke to Winterbourne exchange, which is already enabled?

    Also, has BSTC been able to get a clear reason why Almondsbury exchange has not been enabled, but the neighbouring Winterbourne exchnage has?

  6. We have a house in Bradley Stoke but we live in Spain at the moment. We pay around £11 per month for the Internet and further £13 for line rental in the UK. We get a relatively slow but stable internet connection with speeds ranging from 2 to 4 mbps.

    In Spain, we pay 50 euros a month for a 6 mbps connection – however, it is down every other day. I have to call the provider to go back online. If the connection drops on a Friday afternoon, I have to wait until Monday 10 am because their customer services line is open only during office hours between 10 am and 4 pm. Since I work online I have to have anoher backup connection in place and I pay 3.50 EUR for every day I use it. So I usually spend more than 70 euros (£60) a month just to be connected to the Internet here in Spain.

    So, while things are far from good in Bradley Stoke, they are much better than in other parts of Europe.

    BTW, how many of you have signed the online request for our area on Virgin’s website? I have.

  7. Don’t compare Bradley stoke to Spain. What a ridiculous comparison. compare Bradley stoke to Filton, Yate, winterbourne etc…. On that basis out Internet is amazing compared to North Korea!

  8. Yesterday, Jack Lopresti knocked on my door, quite a surprise but he was leading a team canvassing Cornfield/Wheatfield area.

    I asked about broadband, and he expressed disappointment with BT/Virgin and SGC with regards to slow progress and lack of clarity with plans.

    He has promised to write to Ed Vaizey and Ofcom to chase up the issue again.

  9. This is no big surprise. Anyway I thought that BT were given priority over hooking up 24mb broadband to Bradley Stoke as reported here some months ago? I’ve waited patiently for 5 years now, I can wait another year or two for BT to sort it out. My previous experience with Virgin was beyond poor anyway, extremely over priced and unreliable products with utterly awful customer service. Good riddance to em.

  10. With South Gloucestershire reporting that 19K homes out of 110K cannot receive commercial fast broadband, the largest cluster must be central/south Bradley Stoke with almost 5K homes on 1-5Mbs.

    Out of the whole area, Bradley Stoke must be the simplest and easiest to address with most of the remaining lines being EO or small villages.

    The solution for EO lines is either install a new cabinet where there are large numbers, or subsidise a FTTP connection. Small villages will need the exchanges to closed and turned into a cabinet of a large exchange.

    This is definitely good news, just a shame they are quoting 2016, and not 2014.

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