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BT Has No General Plan to Disguise UK Superfast Broadband Street Cabinets

Tuesday, Oct 23rd, 2012 (2:47 pm) - Score 3,779

BTOpenreach, which manages access to BT’s national UK telecoms network, has confirmed to ISPreview.co.uk that it has no general plans to disguise street cabinets. The confirmation follows an earlier suggestion by the government’s culture spokesman, Viscount Younger, that “plans [were] afoot to camouflage” the big green FTTC boxes.

Viscount Younger’s remarks were first picked up by the BBC on Monday and relate to last week’s publication of the new Growth and Infrastructure Bill (GIB), which among other things contains a plan to help “fast-track” the deployment of superfast broadband (25Mbps+) services around the United Kingdom by cutting red tape in the existing planning system.

One of the Bill’s proposals is for street cabinets, such as the big 1.6m high green boxes that are currently being installed as part of BT’s related 80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) roll out, to be installed without “prior approval from the local council and without any conditions being placed upon the construction or design by local authorities except in exceptional circumstances [or at Sites of Special Scientific Interest]“.

But yesterday saw Lord Howarth of Newport question whether it was a good idea to let “broadband providers install their bulky and intrusive equipment wherever they decide is convenient for them [and] without a requirement for planning permission or even for local consultation“, which drew an interesting response from the government.

Viscount Younger, Culture Spokesman for the Government, said:

I can understand the noble Lord’s concerns. However, the changes to the formal planning process do not mean that broadband providers have carte blanche to install street cabinets or poles wherever or whenever it suits them.

The main broadband suppliers have agreed to develop a code of practice with DCMS whereby the siting of cabinets must have regard to proximity to any existing street furniture, minimising the visual impact and of course ensuring optimum safety on the streets. Sensitivity to locals is the byword, with planning and assessment made in advance.

… Plans are afoot to camouflage them.”

Openreach today informed us that the idea had been mooted but it hadn’t proceeded beyond that point, although the operator added it would have the capacity to do it. On top of that BT already does some work on this front, such as painting some cabinets to better match their surroundings. But more extensive work does tend to come at a cost and BT probably wouldn’t want to foot the full bill for anything like that.

An Openreach Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

We make every effort to site new fibre cabinets in a sensitive manner, in co-operation with the local authority, whilst still ensuring that residents stand to benefit from the next generation of broadband technology. We are also constantly evaluating and refining our approach to deployment, and this includes engaging with local authorities on ways to reduce the visual impact of cabinets.”

As always it’s important not to understate the significant benefits that superfast broadband can bring to an area, which often out ways the usually fairly minor additional disruption that having a larger street cabinet near to your home might create.

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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