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Virgin Media has announced that up to 16,000 homes and business in Durham are to be connected to its fibre optic network.

The rollout will form part of the ongoing Project Lightning, a £3 billion scheme to extend ultrafast fibre broadband to 17 million homes by 2019.

This means homes in Durham will be able to receive broadband speeds of up to 300Mbps, while small businesses will get speeds of up to 350Mbps.

Virgin Media believes this will transform the quality of broadband in the area, as the current average download speed is just 15Mbps.

Hugh Woolford, Regional Director at Virgin Media, commented: "By expanding our network to thousands more homes and businesses, we are making Durham a digital hotspot, and time-strapped families will soon be benefitting from the reliability of a service that’s 20 times faster than the local average."

Councillor Joy Allen, cabinet member for transformation at Durham County Council, added that having access to fast broadband is a high priority for many local people, especially those in rural areas.

"The increased speeds will be particularly welcomed by small businesses who rely on fast connectivity and who could see their companies transformed by this opportunity," she said.

One key benefit of the speed improvements will be that households in Durham will be able to stream ultra-high-definition TV.

Local residents with Virgin TV's V6 set-top box will have access to up to 245 TV channels, including 50 in HD, Sky Sports and BT Sport channels, Sky Movies, Netflix and an extensive collection of box sets and movies.

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