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Virgin Media Staff Suspended Over Broadband Claims

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Staff could face dismissal after admission that Virgin Media overstated expansion of superfast broadband network

Some employees at Virgin Media are in hot water after the owner of the Internet Service Provider (ISP) admitted that four members of staff have been suspended.

The four unnamed Virgin Media employees are currently at the centre of an investigation by parent firm Liberty Global, and could potentially face disciplinary action that could lead to dismissal.

The four personnel were suspended after Liberty Global admitted in a regulatory filing that Virgin Media had overstated the expansion of its superfast broadband network, known as Project Lightning.

BlueCablesExaggerated Expansion

Virgin Media’s £3 billion Project Lightning was launched in 2015 and aims to wire up approximately four million more UK homes and businesses to broadband speeds of 300Mbps.

Last November the ISP said it would connect two million properties to fibre to the premise (FTTP) – double the original target. It is expected the expansion will expand Virgin Media’s total network footprint to 17 million by 2019, with up to half a million added in 2016 alone.

But it was during 2016 that Virgin Media reported that it had connected 465,000 new premises in the UK and Ireland.

However following a review, that number has been revised down to 314,000.

“In the Q4 2016 LG Release, we reported that our European operations added 1.4 million premises to our networks during the 2016 calendar year, including 465,000 premises added by Virgin Media,” it said.

It seems that 142,000 premises in the UK which Virgin Media thought construction had essentially been completed, but later found out they still required additional work.

Potential Dismissal

“In late February 2017, the Company discovered that the construction work necessary to connect a substantial number of the Inactive Premises had not progressed as originally understood,” it admitted.

“The Company then initiated a review of the records underlying the construction status of the Inactive Premises and the circumstances that led to the overstatement of their construction progress.”

“Our review found that the completion status of a number of Inactive Premises had been misrepresented,” it said. “In connection with this review, four Virgin Media employees have been suspended and removed from their posts and employment investigations are ongoing. Pending the results of these investigations, disciplinary action may be taken against employees, including dismissal.”

To make sure this exaggeration doesn’t happen again, Virgin Media will no longer include Inactive Premises in the Added Premises figures that it reports. It did however state that it expects all of these Inactive Premises to be connected before 30 June this year.

Last week Virgin Media announced that its default line speed is now quicker than the top speed offered by rival ISPs.

It has made ultrafast broadband standard with new bundles, which means that customers should be to enjoy speeds of 100Mbps and above as standard.

Quiz: What do you know about Virgin Media?