Theresa Villiers was contacted by local residents in 2014 concerned about slow broadband speeds in parts of her constituency. While most homes and businesses can access superfast broadband speeds in Barnet, certain areas had been left with older, slower connections. A long campaign followed. Now the gaps in BT’s provision of fast broadband in High Barnet and Underhill are steadily being filled; and Virgin is expanding its ultrafast network to 40,000 homes in the borough, including many in High Barnet and Friern Barnet.
Theresa continues to engage with both Openreach and Virgin on improving broadband speeds in Barnet. She is also keeping up the pressure on Virgin to ensure they operate in a considerate way when installing cable and minimise road and pavement closures.
Back in 2014, Theresa began by lobbying BT to fill the gaps in faster broadband provision in High Barnet, Underhill and Totteridge. After taking the case to the Government and the Mayor of London and setting up meetings between BT and local residents groups such as the Barnet Society and Fibre4Barnet, a major victory took place in September 2015. BT confirmed that High Barnet and Underhill would be part of their next round of fibre broadband delivery, and that 6 of the 9 telecoms cabinets identified by the Barnet Society as urgently needing a connection to fast fibre broadband would be upgraded.
Leaving no stone unturned, in January 2016 Theresa set up a meeting with Virgin Media to encourage them to include Barnet in their £3bn ‘Project Lightning’ expansion of their ultrafast fibre broadband network. Representatives from the Barnet Society and Fibre4Barnet also attended, to put the case to Virgin and to encourage local residents to register their interest with the company. In July 2016, Virgin confirmed that 40,000 homes in Barnet would be included in the programme and would have access to ultrafast broadband by the end of 2018. Work on Project Lightning started in Barnet in February 2017.
Meanwhile, after extensive discussions and an intervention by Ed Vaizey MP, the then-Minister of State for Culture, Media and Sport, BT have finished upgrading four of the BT cabinets serving High Barnet and Underhill and they are now accepting orders: Cabinet 64 (Salisbury Road), Cabinet 39 (Wood Street), Cabinet 40 (Bells Hill) and Cabinet 52 (Barnet High Street – supported by funding from local residents). Following negotiations between BT and Barnet Council, sites have now been found for the two remaining cabinets, Cabinet 33 (Wood Street) and Cabinet 38 (Manor Road).
January 2016: Minister intervenes on Barnet broadband
January 2016: Better broadband campaign continues
September 2015: 98% to get access to fast fibre broadband in Chipping Barnet
June 2015: Better broadband for Barnet: campaign update
March 2015: Villiers seeks help from Boris on broadband
February 2015: Villiers’ campaign for better broadband for Barnet continues
October 2013: Villiers urges BT to get Barnet households back online