Liberty Global investigating claims that Virgin officials goosed Project Lightning network deployment progress

Liberty Global

Liberty Global officials said an internal investigation has been launched within the company’s Virgin Media operation in the U.K., exploring concerns that progress on the cable operator’s $3.75 billion Project Lightning network expansion has been exaggerated. 

According to the London Telegraph, which obtained a regulatory disclosure, four staffers have been suspended and could lose their jobs pending the outcome of the investigation. 

According to the filing, Liberty Global discovered that the network required a lot more work to connect 142,000 homes and businesses than had been originally reported. 

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Liberty Global executives said they were led to believe that work to lay new cables had been substantially completed and that the new lines only needed power and to be plugged into street cabinets. Liberty Global ended up telling its investors that the connection would be enabled in the first quarter, only to find out the work would go into the summer. 

Liberty Global told investors it had "initiated a review of the records underlying the construction status of the inactive premises and the circumstances that led to the overstatement of their construction progress.”

As the Telegraph noted, the portion of the Project Lightning program tied to the investigation is only a small portion of the network footprint. Virgin Media plans to expand its coverage to around two-third of the U.K. by 2020. Around 323,000 homes and businesses were connected last year, Liberty noted. It expects to connect up to 1.4 million homes and business in 2017. 

The premises affected represent a small proportion of the overall Project Lightning program, which will expand cable coverage from around half to two-thirds of the country by 2020. A total of 323,000 homes and businesses were successfully connected last year, and Liberty Global expects to connect between 1.3 million and 1.4 million this year.