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Residents in Southampton Street Angered by Toob’s Telegraph Poles

Thursday, Oct 28th, 2021 (8:39 am) - Score 7,632

Some 40 residents of Ellis Road and Hinton Crescent in Southampton have criticised UK ISP Toob for extending a gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband network into the area via telegraph poles instead of underground infrastructure, which they view as an “eyesore” and safety hazard.

As covered before on these pages, the deployment of new telegraph poles tends to be highly divisive in some areas. Despite being a common sight across much of the United Kingdom, there are still plenty of locations where locals have not had them before, and thus their introduction may come as more of a shock. Over the years we’ve seen similar gripes being levelled against Openreach, Airband, Netomnia and many more (here, here and here).

In this case a group of 40 residents living in the Ellis Road and Hinton Crescent area of Southampton have petitioned for Toob to remove the tall wooden telegraph poles they’ve been installing in the area, which forms part of the operator’s £50m investment to reach 100,000 premises across the city with their new full fibre network by the end of 2022.

According to the Southern Daily Echo (see for pictures), the locals appear to have a mix of complaints, including gripes over their aesthetic appearance, an alleged lack of prior notification about the deployment and potential safety hazards (e.g. obstructing pavement access for wheelchairs and similar mobility aids). Instead, the residents would much rather have the fibre installed underground, even though that would be more disruptive.

A Spokesperson for Toob said:

“I can confirm that one of our brand ambassadors delivered individually addressed letters to just over 100 homes in the Thornhill area where we are deploying new poles, prior to their installation.

While erecting the new poles, it became evident that some of the residents were unhappy with the work and we paused the deployment. During the deployment, it was found that due to existing services in the footway, one of the poles on Hinton Crescent needed to be placed a little further from the inside of the footway than usual, this nonetheless met all our statutory requirements for clearance.

Following residents’ feedback and even though this pole is compliant with the statutory regulation, we have agreed to remove the pole in question as soon as possible.”

Poles like this tend to be deployed under Permitted Development (PD) rights, which means that they don’t have to go through the usual planning permissions process and can often pop up quite quickly. Operators tend to use this where underground fibre would, for whatever reason (blocked, damaged or full ducts etc.), be too slow and expensive.

The operator won’t be installing poles just to irritate the community, but if the costs are pushed up too high, then the deployment may become economically unviable (i.e. sometimes poles make the difference between getting FTTP or not). Some locals won’t care about such things, but those who are keen for faster broadband may see them as a price worth paying.

In our experience, poles rarely seem to harm local property values (partly because so many people are familiar with seeing them) and more than a few surveys have suggested that the addition of FTTP into an area is likely to improve the value of local housing. In a snap poll conducted during July 2021 we asked 660 readers whether they’d accept poles to get FTTP, if the alternative meant having to wait years longer for the service – 71% said yes.

Nevertheless, telegraph poles will no doubt continue to divide opinion. But the bad news, for those who don’t like them, is that over the next 5 years we’re likely to see many more of these wooden structures springing up across the UK as gigabit broadband coverage expands.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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34 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Ben says:

    Gigabit broadband for £25 per month — poor things. Let me play the world’s smallest violin for them.

    1. Avatar photo Peter sims says:

      People like them is bring uk in Stone Age .

  2. Avatar photo MartinConf says:

    Toob are unlikely to get any business in this area if they leave the poles in place so best to remove the poles and move on to the next area.

    It is disappointing that the residents have done this as its not exactly Buckingham Palace there.

    1. Avatar photo Lexx says:

      It probably be like 5 people who are complaining (or 1 per street)

  3. Avatar photo Olly says:

    Given the level of overbuild and lack of infrastructure sharing, it would interesting to see how congested a street would look if multiple operators try to deploy new poles in the same area. Perhaps regulation required to limit to one set of “fibre poles” per street?

  4. Avatar photo Ben says:

    To be fair they do look horrible and it’s interesting how the ‘less affluent’ areas get poles where others (St Elizabeth Avenue as an example) get new underground ducting.

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      I’ve seen plenty of poles around affluent areas too, since to a network operator the wealth of local residents is less relevant to build costs (unless said residents are co-funding the project, but that’s uncommon).

    2. Avatar photo Ben says:

      I think it’s probably more a case that the residents of St Elizabeth Avenue (as one example I know of) would absolutely have kicked off at having poles installed as they would be detrimental to the look of the area, and it happens to be an affluent area. I guess Toob didn’t expect any blowback on the Thornhill estate. There’s plenty of Openreach chambers in Elizabeth Avenue so no reason I could see why they couldn’t have gone for the (presumably) cheaper option of poles.

      It would be interesting to know the criteria for how operators choose poles Vs ducting though I doubt it would ever be released.

  5. Avatar photo Pezza says:

    They have an utterly ugly tower block like that towering over them and complain about some telegraph poles? Poor things how do they cope.. Tell them not to worry, I’m sure Virgin Media will be all too happy to come along, dig all the pavements and roads up, backfill them with different coloured tarmac, and leave big lovely grey boxes on all the street corners.
    I’m sure those wishing for fibre to the door are enthralled by the actions of the shouty self centred and self important few in the area. Southampton is full of snobs who think way way too much of themselves.

  6. Avatar photo Jeff says:

    I live in Southampton and am on the last cabinet on my exchange to NOT be upgraded to fibre. I get 12mbps and right now I’d let them put a pole up in my front garden.

    1. Avatar photo Mike says:

      Tried 5g?

    2. Avatar photo Ben says:

      Whereabouts in Soton are you? Vodafone (and increasingly Three’s) 5G coverage is very good in Soton.

    3. Avatar photo Jeff says:

      Over on the New Forest side in Dibden. No cable option here, and 4G is very patchy I’ve tried all the network SIM’s from my house. Beginning to think Starlink is my only option.

    4. Avatar photo Lou O. says:

      Try getting a modified 5g Huawei router with external antennas.

      I’m over the other side of town, but get 400-600mbps on Three 5g. Unless you’re next to a cell site you won’t get decent service without going for a multiple antenna setup.

      It’s not too tricky to set up and after the upfront cost of antennas (£300ish) you’re looking at £25/month or so.

      Totally recommend it.

    5. Avatar photo Jeff says:

      Thanks Lou. With a Three SIM in my iPhone XS the 4G speeds are poor (5-7mbps), but I’m lucky to get one bar. There is a Three antenna 500m away, but whereby house is I’m in a dip surrounded by trees. Its such a shame you can’t try these options before you invest in them, the initial outlay doesn’t concern me as long as its quick and stable.

    6. Avatar photo cheesemp says:

      I think you must live in almost the same street (or least the same estate)! We do seem to have been missed out in the waterside. I did consider starlink but the £500 equipment cost was just too steep. I’ve come to the conclusion openreach know the ducts are 50 years old and don’t want to touch them. I did email toob to get the to take a look but they just said no plans and now they are laying in other cities.

  7. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

    Wouldn’t it be easier to install FTTP in area’s where telegraph poles are already there?

    1. Avatar photo Alex says:

      Toob use PIA for their infrastructure, whether the new poles are owned by Openreach or Toob I’m not sure.

      Other operators deploying new poles (e.g Netomnia/YouFibre) also seem to be mostly PIA.

    2. Avatar photo Alex says:

      If Openreach own the new poles then it makes little difference to toob whether the area has poles or not.

  8. Avatar photo GaryH says:

    I have poles AND no fttp, where do I complain?

    Seriously though, despite some here mocking the beauty of the area, poles and multiple cbt festooning fibres accross front gardens isn’t a good look and leaves their new investment subject to all the existing issues of damage to overhead comms, that said less likely to have a contractor put a jcb bucket through it.

  9. Avatar photo Matt says:

    I forwardded this article to ISP review because i picked up past articles on telegraph poles and reisdents not being happy. I live just around the corner from the residents complaining about toob broadband. Our 1970s houses also now have these draconian poles despite both BT and virgin media having their services underground. Its around 40 houses and most have VM or BT because our geography means aerial hd signal is flaky. Virgin media will come out and install underground and through garden no problem. SO why cant toob ? Toob are working with Openreach that much we do know. We dont know why toob arent working with Virgin media bearing in mind their ducts are early 90s and everywhere. Several install around h ere in recent years and no problem. They want to link the new poles with older ones adjacent to our roads. WHat i dont get is these are BT copper wire from the 1960s Toob offer broadband only at 900mb up and down. Ive read that many people dont get that speed. I dont see anyone around my way needing that sort of speed its pure marketing and of course so is the low price that will rise. I think BT should sort out their ducting for fibre fttp. Ive got fftc and its 40/7 and works fine for what i need including streaming. The telegraph poles are a right eyesore in 2021 and when its being added to 1970s housing its crazy when they are serviced already with ducting. Toob wont get any customers around here but we still will have to put up with their visual eyesore.

    1. Avatar photo Fastman says:


      I think BT should sort out their ducting for fibre fttp.

      so you paying the difference which i woudl expect to be substantial the cost of poles vs the cost of footway or carriage way duct (in the worse case scenairo ) could be astronimical

      dont think virgin offer a PIA product ?

    2. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      Well if you’re fine without full fibre that’s the most important thing, Matt.

  10. Avatar photo Matt says:

    Toob broadband should use the virgin media ducting or BT update their lines (copper as wek know is all going). Residents in areas that have ducting shouldnt be subjected to the visual eyesore outside their properties. The cheap versus more expensive work isnt really the concern of residents. No poles should go up when there is no customers. Toob should concentrate on areas that they can get customers first and not speculate. I get the feeling we will be hearing alot more about ‘toob broadband’ and their alleged 900mb.

  11. Avatar photo Pier says:

    I’m as heavy a user as you’ll find on this street (work from home, watch Netflix, video call my family every evening, etc.) and I hate the idea of having these poles. It’s 2021 ffs. The current services available are more then adequate, and by the time they won’t be anymore, BT will have probably sorted the ducting. On the contrary if these poles go up, they will stay there for decades.
    The petition was signed almost unanimously (went out with more than 60 signatures in the end), so it’s not just a couple residents complaining.
    And for those that trash the area, you’re of the same mindset of the Toob planner that decided to put poles here and not in the nice areas: just come have a walk in Ellis road, Hinton crescent and neighbouring roads and see if it isn’t a beautiful spot.
    I would happily pay more for Toob internet if it meant they weren’t working on the cheap in infrastructure.

    1. Avatar photo Matt says:

      Well it’s OK be stuck with out fttp then good luck falling behind just don’t bloody look at them jesus soon you would become acoustom to them and it won’t bother you no more I welcome poles or what ever thay use just won’t fttp

  12. Avatar photo Ben says:

    Having just had a drive around Ellis road / Hinton I’m actually laughing at how much fuss this has caused. Absolute NIMBYS.

    1. Avatar photo Matt says:

      Ben you sound like a troll

    2. Avatar photo Ben says:

      I probably gave the wrong impression then, but they don’t appear to be the eyesore that Daily Echo et al make them out to be. There’s plenty of existing Openreach poles leading in to Ellis – you soon become blind to them.

    3. Avatar photo Pier says:

      Most of the poles and any of the wires aren’t there yet. You’re telling me you didn’t notice how different the bottom and top of Ellis road look?
      And what is going to happen next? Every new broadband company in town installs a new set of poles? We really didn’t ask for this to be installed this way, and it shouldn’t happen before having a conversation with the residents, who are the only people affected and who all signed against this.

  13. Avatar photo Factcheckerz says:

    3/10 Matt. Must try harder.

  14. Avatar photo Matt says:

    Pier no your just selfcenterd all thows people propley won’t have acsess to fiber now coz of a few people whinging about poles get over it

    1. Avatar photo OriginalMatt says:


      ‘A few people whinging’ I calculate about 80% of hundred houses that dont want the poles. Current speeds offered by Virgin Media and BT FFTC work fine for streaming and all other residential use. Where this problem really sits is because operators like Toob cannot use the VM ducting. Ofcom are failing customers by not allowing it. There are a number of roads not far from the ‘pole issue’ that now have three different ducting via BT, VM and the newly dug Toob. That is simply crazy.

  15. Avatar photo Sylvia says:

    I live in Woolston, Southampton & toob have just erected one of these ugly poles right beside my property. It can be seen from every window in my house & from every angle in my garden. We have contacted two councillors & Royston Smith mp over the totally unfair location of this pole but no one has bothered to answer yet. We have also contacted toob various times but they’ve just said they have been given permission from Southampton city council to do whatever they like.
    Can anyone give any advice on this. Thank you

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