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Virgin Media has taken the unusual step of urging its broadband rivals to put their prices up and invest in their networks.

In a move which risks incurring the wrath of media regulator Ofcom, Dana Strong, Virgin Media's Chief Operating Officer, hit out at the 'free' broadband deals being offered by some UK service providers.

As reported by the Telegraph, she used a speech at the Enders Analysis Digital UK conference to raise concerns about the sustainability of budget pricing strategies.

"I find it completely paradoxical and ironic that this is the sector where we’re promoting and advertising the notion of free broadband access," Ms Strong told attendees.

"It’s creating an impression in our consumers’ minds, in businesses and government that broadband should be free."

She claimed that broadband is "an essential foundation" to growing the economy in the UK, and it needs investment and sustained commitment from broadband providers.

Ms Strong added that network upgrades are not easy, and they are not cheap.

Last year, BT's Chief Executive Gavin Patterson accused Sky of "literally buying customers" with its free broadband offers.

BT itself has come in for criticism in the past for offering BT Sport as a free service to BT broadband subscribers, in a bid to attract and retain customers.

And TalkTalk - a company that provides broadband via BT's wholesale network - recently offered 18 months' free to new customers signing up for its entry-level SimplyBroadband tariff.

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