BT and Virgin Media oppose Birmingham broadband

BT and Virgin Media have launched legal action against Birmingham City Council over its plans to build a superfast broadband network. The council had successfully applied for European Commission State Aid funding for the scheme. The council argues that it will help local areas which are underserved by existing providers.

However Virgin Media argues there is “significant overbuild” with its current network.

Birmingham City Council plans to build a 100+Mbps broadband network to serve specific local areas including Digbeth, Eastside and the city’s Jewellery Quarter. It says that businesses in those areas do not have access to “affordable” high speed broadband.

It is one of the first European cities to acquire EC State Aid for a superfast broadband initiative and the council claims “up to 1,000 jobs” could be created by the project.

Councillor James McKay said the council was “extremely disappointed” by the actions of BT and Virgin Media. “The city has worked in a very positive and collaborative way with them over the last few years to help inform and develop our business case and we are surprised that they have now chosen to appeal at such a late stage,” he said in a statement.

“We are liaising with government and the European Commission and we are advocating that this matter be treated with some urgency as a ‘test case’ for Europe and that everything that can be done to expedite it through the legal process is done.”

Virgin Media said the plan “involves a significant overbuild” with its existing network. “It’s a poor implementation of what is otherwise a sensible policy. It sets a bad precedent and sends a really bad signal to our investors,” said a statement from the broadband provider.