Virgin Media's broadband plans leave rural communities

Virgin Media recently announced that its broadband scheme - worth £3 billion - will not include the rollout of its internet services in rural communities.

The company has confirmed that it currently has no plans in place to extend its network of super-fast connectivity into the countryside, instead preferring to improve internet provision in urban towns and cities.

This news hasn't been received well by residents and businesses from the rural areas that are set to be overlooked, with the Country and Land Association (CLA) claiming that Virgin Media's decision could "exacerbate the rural-urban digital divide".

In addition, the firm's rural competitors have spoken out against its decisions, expressing no surprise that those in the countryside have been 'left out in the cold'.

"With £1.7 billion of public funding going almost entirely through BT, it isn't surprising that an investment of this scale is focusing on areas that Virgin expects to see delivering better results," said Malcolm Corbett of the Independent Networks Co-operative Association.

Virgin Media claims it has the biggest broadband infrastructure in the UK and expects to extend its network from 13 million to 17 million, but has expressed no interest in including rural communities in its next rollout.

While the CLA acknowledges that it is not always a profitable decision for broadband providers to invest in remote areas, it also feels that it's "a pity that private companies are not putting the infrastructure in place to benefit rural business".

A spokesperson for the organisation added: "What is clear is that rural areas will not be able to access speeds in excess of 30 Mbps or 50 Mbps -for some time to come. All this does is show that the rural economy is neglected once again."

The CLA claims that many residents and businesses living in the UK's remotest areas would love to be able to take advantage of Virgin Media's fibre optic technology, but the firm has shown no interest in helping these communities.

BT's government-backed rollout of superfast broadband relies on fibre to the cabinet, the spokesperson continued, disadvantaging rural communities more as the further away a premises is from a connectivity box, the slower the speed.