Virgin Media’s work in my street reminds me of the poor state of broadband in the UK
A few weeks ago, I awoke to find my street being dug up by several pneumatic drills simultaneously. We’d seen the markings sprayed on the pavements some time previously, of course, but I had no idea what they were. Couldn’t be cable TV – Virgin Media, as far as I knew, never laid cable of their own – they just bought up all the other companies who went bust under the cost of doing so.
It turns out I was wrong, though, as our road now boasts a shiny new cable TV cabinet, and connection points for every house and block of flats. There was an outraged article in the local paper about how this work was done with zero notice to residents; we were indeed given no notice, but given that I was gone for work on all but a couple of days when the work was taking place, I didn’t mind too much. I can understand those who actually spend their days here being upset, though.
Given that this street was built less than ten years ago, it seems a bit screwed up that Virgin are digging it up now – surely they should have tried to co-operate with the developer at the time and saved making a mess of our pavements after the fact?
Whatever the ins and outs of that, it feels rather sad that the cables being pulled are presumably copper coax rather than fibre. Come to that, it feels backwards that BT are still laying copper and not fibre to new-builds. For all their clever research on delivering data at high bandwidth over copper, surely having fibre to the individual houses is the only long-term solution.
One of my neighbours is quoted in the article saying he’d be surprised if Virgin got custom from his neighbours. For sure, I’ve never been a fan in the past, but the offer of a 200 megabits per second connection for £44 per month is hugely tempting – particularly when all the providers operating over BT’s infrastructure can’t match that speed, and most of them are participating in a race to the bottom where competition on price leaves no money to spend on providing a decent service.
If our pavements start sinking, of course, I might decide otherwise.