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Virgin suspends four after 'overstating' Project Lightning broadband rollout

Virgin Media’s parent company has been forced into an embarrassing climbdown after revealing it exaggerated by over 140,000 the number of homes included in its Project Lightning broadband rollout.

Four employees have been suspended and it has reshuffled senior executives at the top of Virgin Media.

In a financial statement Liberty Global said it discovered that connections to a substantial number of “inactive premises” had been overstated.

Construction work to install broadband had “not progressed as originally understood”, said the statement.

A review found the numbers were “misrepresented”. Four staff have been suspended and Liberty is threatening to fire anyone who is found to have deliberately misled bosses.

Project Lightning is Virgin’s £3bn superfast broadband rollout and is currently under heavy advertising rotation on UK TV screens.

Virgin say they want to boost coverage to 17 million homes by the end of 2019.

On 15 February 2017, Liberty Global put out a press release announcing its financial results for the quarter ending 31 December 2016.

On 28 March 2017 it admitted in a financial statement: “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.”

Included in these headline figures were 142,000 premises where “the company understood construction to be essentially complete”.

When bosses discovered this wasn’t the case, it called four employees in to be suspended and was forced to release the details to the financial press.

Still, Project Lightning should be back on track by 30 June 2017, Liberty said.

The company added that it had “taken several steps to strengthen our Project Lightning new build program”.

Top execs who have joined the Project Lightning team are: Managing Director Robert Evans, who reports to Virgin’s Chief Executive Tom Mockridge and Jeff Dodds, head of mobile at rival TalkTalk.

Virgin Media has also appointed a Liberty Global’s transformation officer Dana Strong as its new President and Chief Operating Officer.

She oversaw the restructure back in 2013 when Liberty completed the Virgin Media takeover. She’ll be responsible for delivering more customers to Project Lightning.

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