THOUSANDS of homes and businesses in County Durham could benefit from a new ultrafast broadband network.

Virgin Media has announced plans to extend its ultrafast network to up to 16,000 properties in the county by the end of 2019.

Customers on the new network could reach speeds of up to 300Mbps for residents and 350Mbps for small businesses, up from the current average download speed of 15Mbps in the area.

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Hugh Woolford, regional director at Virgin Media, said: “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, said: “We know having access to fast broadband is a high priority for many people in our county, particularly those in rural areas where being able to use the internet easily and quickly is extremely important.

“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.”

Backed by parent company Liberty Global, Virgin Media has plans to extend its ultrafast fibre broadband network to an additional four million premises, to reach a total of 17 million homes and businesses.