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Broadband Rollout to be Boosted as New Infrastructure Bill Reaches Parliament

Friday, Oct 19th, 2012 (8:20 am) - Score 722

The Growth and Infrastructure Bill (GIB), which among other things contains plans to help “fast-track” the deployment of superfast broadband (25Mbps+) services around the United Kingdom by cutting red tape in the existing planning system, has now gone before parliament.

The new bill, which will primarily benefit big ISPs like BT and Virgin Media that can invest significant amounts of time and money into infrastructure development, contains a series of draft proposals that aim to reduce the costs and remove “unnecessary bureaucracy” in the planning system. For example, it would make it easier and faster to get new street cabinets installed or to lay fibre optic cables.

This in turn should benefit the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) offices £680m effort to help make superfast broadband services available to 90% of people by March 2015 (£150m of that is for the super-connected cities fund). But before this can become law as an Act it must first be debated in parliament, which could result in changes.

Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities, said:

These common sense reforms will support local jobs and local firms. They complement the changes we are already delivered through the Localism Act, from streamlined planning guidance and, shortly, from the local retention of business rates.”

Nick Boles MP, Planning Minister, said:

The Growth and Infrastructure Bill will boost investment and local economic growth. It removes confusing and overlapping red tape, whilst ensuring democratic checks and balances and environmental safeguards remain in place.

Britain is in a global race today with rising nations like China and Brazil. Countries like ours will only be able to compete if we make it easier for businesses to invest and quicker for infrastructure to get built.”

The proposals, which were first mooted as part of the coalition government’s original strategy in 2010, were broadly welcomed when they were finally announced last month (here). On the other hand these are changes that should ideally have been introduced over a year ago and the delay means they won’t have been fully factored into the related Local Broadband Plans (LBP) for each region.

Similarly some people will be concerned about the softening of restrictions, which might have originally afforded some protection against telecoms operators installing new infrastructure in potentially dangerous or obstructive locations. We’ve seen plenty of examples with BT’s FTTC roll-out, where new cabinets have blocked footpaths, windows and caused other obstructions.

On the other hand not all complaints are justified and some neglect the very real benefits that such technologies could bring into an area.

Proposed Planning System Changes (Broadband Roll Out)

* Broadband street cabinets can be installed in any location other than Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) without the need for prior approval from the local council and without any conditions being placed upon the construction or design by local authorities except in exceptional circumstances;

* Broadband fibre and other broadband infrastructure can be located under or above private land without the bureaucratic burden of long-running negotiations; and

* Overhead broadband lines can be installed in any area without the need for planning or other permission (we will encourage providers to engage with the local community on the siting of overhead lines as a matter of good practice).

* In addition, we will: broker a new deal for broadband installation with industry and highway authorities to ensure that traffic regulation does not hinder the roll out of superfast broadband;

* Insist that any new local authority street work permit schemes approved between now and 2015 are focussed on the most traffic sensitive streets; and

* Review all existing permit schemes and the way works are classified, in order to streamline processes, shorten timescales for approval of works, and reduce fees.

* We will also: facilitate discussions between broadband infrastructure providers, power companies and Ofgem to develop a standardised national power supply contract for broadband infrastructure.

Meanwhile the government’s is still awaiting EU permission to distribute its State Aid funding to related projects around the country, which has been delayed due to the European Commission’s (EC) competition concerns with the BDUK process (e.g. lack of dark fibre access and BT’s dominance of the current bidding process etc.). Final approval, which will include several “minor changes” to the BDUK framework, is expected by early November at the latest.

The Growth and Infrastructure Bill PDF (Background Summary)

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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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