A new report published by Virgin Media Business and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) highlights the difference a multi-million-pound digital investment in full fibre connectivity is making to local people in Manchester.
In 2020, GMCA commissioned Virgin Media Business to connect more than 1,500 public sites to a new full fibre network in Greater Manchester, as part of the UK’s largest Local Full Fibre Networks Programme (LFFN).
Virgin Media Business has incorporated a number of social value initiatives in the five-year programme in support of Greater Manchester’s Digital Blueprint, including a commitment to create 20 apprenticeships in the area and to invest in digital and STEM skills for young people.
Since the project began, Virgin Media Business and GMCA have connected 15 homeless shelters, community centres and charities to its network, with six more sites due to be connected this year. By providing free connectivity in community spaces, the project enables local people to access online services, develop digital skills and go online to complete homework.
Other social initiatives highlighted in the Tackling digital inequality in Greater Manchester report include:
- the donation of 567 digital kit bundles to ensure students in Greater Manchester at risk of digital exclusion could continue learning when schools were closed during lockdown;
- the funding of three digital skills programmes with the Prince’s Trust
- a £100,000 donation to the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity’s ‘A Bed Every Night’ programme to help tackle homelessness; and
- more than 1,000 hours of volunteering by Virgin Media Business employees, with an additional 4,000 hours to come over the next four years.
Jo Bertram, Managing Director of Business and Wholesale at Virgin Media O2, said: “Our work in Greater Manchester is not only transforming connectivity across the region, it is also helping to transform lives for the better. In partnership with the GMCA, we are supercharging communities and supporting those most at risk of digital exclusion. Whether it’s through funding projects to help those experiencing homelessness, investing in children’s futures or upgrading community connections, we’re committed to doing more for the people of Greater Manchester today and in future.”