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UPD2 BT Withdraw from Superfast Broadband Rollout in Kensington and Chelsea

Thursday, May 31st, 2012 (9:51 am) - Score 3,491

BTOpenreach has shocked local residents and businesses in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (London, UK) after it sensationally pulled out of plans to deploy superfast broadband (FTTC) services at 108 local street cabinets (covering 34,200 premises).

The move followed shortly after the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKCC) opted to reject 96 of the proposed cabinet upgrades because it wanted to focus on work that would “de-clutter” the local streets instead. Oh good choice ehumm.

A BT Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk today:

We can confirm we have ceased deployment of fibre broadband in Kensington and Chelsea. This is unfortunate but we were left with no option after having the vast majority of our applications rejected by the council. Other councils, including those of neighbouring boroughs, have shown a greater eagerness to enjoy the benefits of fibre broadband.

We will therefore re-focus our engineers’ efforts in other areas where planning authorities have taken a positive approach and are keen to ensure their residents and businesses can benefit from this technology.”

Baroness Jo Valentine, CEO of Business Membership Group London First, added:

London business needs world class communications infrastructure and delaying broadband rollout in Kensington and Chelsea is bad news for local businesses and residents; BT is able to work with other boroughs with conservation areas – Kensington & Chelsea need to up their game.”

BT has so far managed to install more than 4,000 “fibre” (FTTC / FTTP) broadband cabinets across London, including borough’s like Greenwich, a world heritage site. Certainly it is true that the new cabinets are somewhat large, green and have caused obstructions in other areas too. It’s just a shame that the council couldn’t find a happy solution like most places have.

Meanwhile RBKCC hopes that “one of [BTs] competitors will step into the role“, although most such solutions would still require some degree of street work. It will be interesting to see whether the local authority is able to maintain their a stance over the coming months.

UPDATE 3:55pm

Added an interesting comment from FTTH ISP Hyperoptic.

Dana Pressman-Tobak, Managing Director of Hyperoptic, told ISPreview.co.uk:

Local residents will no doubt be aghast by the news that BTOpenreach has pulled out of plans to deploy superfast broadband (FTTC) services to 108 local street cabinets (covering 34,200 premises) across Kensington and Chelsea.

In all probability, this news will not be met with surprise. As it stands, the UK fails to make the top 10 countries for broadband speeds and doesn’t even figure on FTTH leader-boards. This is because by and large the UK’s approach to broadband is simply about meeting government minimum targets. The inadequate solutions have partly been driven by the large providers who don’t want to cannibalise their customer base and where their existing technology is incompatible with the delivery of next generation broadband.

Hyperoptic was founded to change this mindset. Its solution is driven by the mindset that fibre all the way is the only option to deliver hyper-fast broadband to satisfy the consumer broadband requirements of today and the future. It is already rolling out its 1 Gig fibre-to-the-building across property developments in London. Its solution also dispenses the need for street cabinets, as the fibre goes straight into the building. It’s no wonder the councils didn’t want to add another host of “green boxes” to the already crowded streets.

Should residents in Kensington and Chelsea want to learn more about how they can still receive hyper-fast broadband, we urge them to get in touch.”

UPDATE 4th June 2012

Here’s the full statement from RBKCC.

RBKCC Statement on BTOpenreach

Every developer in Kensington and Chelsea must have regard to our historic streetscapes and listed buildings.

We expect developers, including utilities like BT, to work with us to find suitable solutions to ensure that our environment is protected.

BT was seeking permission for 108 cabinets, many of them in sensitive locations. It would not compromise on the number, or on the design.

It would not use sites that already had unused BT equipment and it would not consider putting the equipment underground or any other method.

We regret that BT are not proceeding with superfast broadband in the Royal Borough but virtually the whole borough is already covered by superfast broadband with Virgin, who obviously appreciate the very valuable market the borough represents.

Virgin have been able to do this without ruining our historic streetscape. They will also consider extending to the few streets they do not already cover in the borough if demand is there.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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