Telford and Wrekin Council has partnered with Virgin Media O2 Business to deliver a multimillion-pound boost to connectivity infrastructure, digital inclusion and job opportunities in the local area.
The partnership programme will see Virgin Media O2 Business connect more than 200 council premises and other public buildings in Telford and Wrekin – including schools and libraries – providing access to a full fibre network. This will enable the council to provide ultra-fast, multi-gigabit connectivity to public sites across the area.
The introduction of new cabling will also lay the foundations for a further 12,000 local premises not currently connected to the Virgin Media O2 fixed network to access ultrafast fibre services in the future. As well as this, the new infrastructure will enable additional wholesale connectivity partnerships, allowing other providers to deliver FTTP services in Telford and Wrekin, creating even more choice for residents.
As part of its commitment to creating a lasting positive impact in the communities it serves, Virgin Media O2 Business will provide in-kind connectivity to the local voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors, delivering ultrafast business broadband to up to ten community organisations. It will also fund a series of social value initiatives to help support Telford and Wrekin residents most at risk of digital exclusion, such as those who have spent time in the care system (Care Leavers). These range from a targeted apprenticeship scheme and work placements to a digital learning fund, volunteering and a donation to support Telford’s local offer to Care Leavers.
A digital inclusion fund will be set aside for the council to improve residents’ access to digital services. To support young people in the area, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, Virgin Media O2 Business will work with the council and the local build partner, Comex 2000, to offer hands-on apprenticeship and work experience opportunities.
To improve economic opportunities for Telford and Wrekin’s Care Leavers, Virgin Media O2 Business will also provide the council with a ‘Digital Learning Fund’, offering access to a wide range of training opportunities. This will be supplemented by an in-kind donation to support Care Leavers in the local area.
Virgin Media O2 Business employees based in Telford will also deliver at least 100 hours of volunteering time to support digitally excluded residents in improving their online skills.
Councillor Rae Evans, Telford & Wrekin Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, Governance and Customer Service, commented: “We’re excited to be joining forces with Virgin Media O2 Business to broaden access to online services for our residents, tackle digital exclusion and create exciting career opportunities.
“This investment will see improved connectivity at council buildings, public offices, schools and libraries across the borough, making it easier for us to do business as a council, and easier for people to access our services online.
“At the heart of this partnership is a mission to support digitally excluded residents to get online more easily, and build the skills and confidence needed to do so, through funding and volunteering support, as well as offering apprenticeships and work placements.
“We know that this investment will have a real impact on the lives of people across Telford and Wrekin, and make sure that residents and business alike have access to fast, full fibre broadband, as we continue our commitment to protect, care and invest to create a better borough.”
Mike Smith, Director of Large Enterprise and Public Sector at Virgin Media O2 Business, added: “We’re so proud to be working with the council to boost its digital infrastructure and help enable more local people to embrace the potential that connectivity brings. Today, digital connectivity isn’t a ‘nice-to-have’ – it’s an essential. We’re looking forward to seeing this project make huge strides to tackle digital exclusion in Telford and Wrekin, giving people access to new opportunities, educational resources and keeping them connected when they need it.”
Virgin Media O2 has announced its intention to upgrade its fixed network to full fibre to the premises (FTTP) with completion in 2028 – including 66,000 properties in Telford & Wrekin. Virgin Media O2’s 4G mobile network currently offers 97.25% indoor coverage in the area.