Supporting Greater Manchester's social and digital ambitions

Supporting Greater Manchester's social and digital ambitions


Mike Smith

Mike Smith

Large Enterprise and Public Sector Director

Virgin Media O2 Business


3 minutes

04th August 2022

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In early 2020, we partnered with Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) to deliver fibre optic connectivity to public sector sites throughout the city-region.


The £23.8m Local Full Fibre Networks Programme (LFFN) set out a plan for up to 2,700 km of fibre optic broadband infrastructure to be laid, connecting more than 1,500 public sites.


It is the UK’s largest and most ambitious LFFN programme to date.


The programme covers public service sites across the Greater Manchester region including over 150 children’s centres, 97 school sites and 70 libraries. Now drawing to a close, the programme has delivered economic benefits worth around £19.7m for local people.


Alongside the rollout of this digital infrastructure we also made several commitments to support GMCA and the Mayor of Greater Manchester’s bold aspirations to improve the lives of the people who live in the area. 17 public sites in the Greater Manchester city-region — including homeless shelters, charities and community centres – are benefiting from free fibre broadband connectivity until 2025, as part of the programme


You can find out more about how the project is helping tackle digital inequality in our social value report.

As well as connecting sites to a full-fibre network, the programme has provided significant social and economic benefits in the Greater Manchester area. This includes exceeding its local employment target, with an average 78% of the LFFN workforce based in Greater Manchester – bringing £19.7m-worth of economic value to the local area (direct and indirect) in just two years. Since the programme began, Virgin Media O2 Business has also taken on 38 new Greater Manchester-based apprentices, running ahead of the original apprenticeship targets it set at launch.


Check out our infographic for an overview of the programme’s outcomes.

“In Greater Manchester, we’re ensuring everyone, whatever their age, location or situation, can benefit from the opportunities digital brings. I’m encouraged to see digital infrastructure being used to directly benefit our communities. This programme has set a standard and a legacy for industry, public sector and communities working together on meaningful change and towards fixing the digital divide, as we equip the region with the infrastructure it needs to become a world-class digital city region.”


Cllr Eamonn O’Brien, Leader of Bury Council and GMCA Lead for Education, Skills, Work, Apprenticeships & Digital


This programme has been the result of close partnership working between Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Virgin Media Business, Greater Manchester’s local authorities, Fire & Rescue Services and Transport for Greater Manchester – backed by millions of pounds of funding from central government.


With the majority of sites now connected to the full fibre network, a wide range of digital transformation and smart city projects can begin. This is part of a wider drive to bring digital infrastructure investment to Greater Manchester, which has seen GMCA and Greater Manchester local authorities streamlining regulations and inspection work. The work has also laid the foundations for upcoming initiatives, such as Greater Manchester One Network.


Providing the infrastructure to connect so many public buildings in Greater Manchester to a fast, reliable and accessible broadband network has been a landmark project for us. Today, digital connectivity is not just a nice to have: it’s an essential part of the way we live and work. It’s been wonderful to see the social impact the LFFN programme has had on people across the city-region – and we’re looking forward to continuing to tackle digital exclusion in local communities as we plan out the programme’s legacy.


Can we help with the digital transformation of your local area? Get in touch today to start a conversation.