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Airband’s Pole Erections Failed to Follow Correct Procedure in Totnes UPDATE

Wednesday, Feb 16th, 2022 (12:01 am) - Score 6,576
airband fttp build telegraph pole

Worcestershire-based UK broadband ISP Airband has reportedly admitted that it failed to follow the correct procedure when installing several new telegraph poles in the Devon town of Totnes, which caused upset among some local residents. The local erection of further poles is now said to be on-hold, at least temporarily.

At present the operator, which recently secured a significant £100m investment boost (here), is in the process of rolling out a new gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband network to cover 600,000 UK premises by the end of 2025.

NOTE: The provider’s fixed wireless (FWA) and FTTP network currently supports 100,000 premises.

However, the operator’s “full fibre” work in Totnes forms part of their existing state aid supported contract with the Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) programme – this includes the £25.5m Phase 2 CDS contract for 37,500 premises (here) and their earlier Fibre Extension Programme (FEP) contract for c.6,200 premises (here).

Much of the above build involves the construction of new telegraph poles, which tends to be a fair bit cheaper, faster and less disruptive for locals than digging new trenches for fibre. This can often mean the difference between an area being economically viable or unviable for deployment.

Poles are typically built using Permitted Development (PD) rights, which means they don’t have to go through the usual planning process and can pop up quite quickly. But Airband is still “required to give written notification 28 days in advance of its intention to install its poles” in the area and, on this occasion, it looks like that didn’t happen for up to 14 poles.

According to the Totnes Times, “multiple” residents have since complained about the operator’s “ugly,” “obtrusive,” “horrendous,” and “dominating” erections (no pun intended), a few of which were said to be obstructing resident’s views or have been erected next to newly planted trees. In response, Airband has put future deployments in the area on hold, at least for now.

John Birch, Councillor, said:

“[Airband’s representative] assured me that in future the company will follow the correct procedure in respect of consultation prior to any further pole erection. I will do my best to ensure this is the case.

At the meeting county and district council officers stated Airband is required to give written notification 28 days in advance of its intention to install its poles. This it has failed to do and for which it apologised.

Hopefully, in future, residents will be given advanced notice and this will hopefully provide them with an opportunity to raise any concerns prior to installation.”

However, while network builders are usually expected to give written notice of a new build to homes, we’re not at all certain that operators need to specifically mention the use of poles to consumers directly. The notices we’ve seen from other operators are typically quite vague on the such details for specific streets (methods can vary and change as plans evolve).

Admittedly, it’s not the first time that residents of a location on Airband’s FTTP deployment plan have been angered by one of their erections (no pun intended.. again). Back in 2019 residents in the North Devon village of Berrynabor were similarly angered, albeit this time because they’d previously been successful in campaigning to have poles removed from the area (here).

At present telegraph poles are enjoying somewhat of a renaissance, with many operators using them to help expand the coverage of their FTTP broadband networks. But as we’ve seen many times before, such poles have a tendency to divide public opinion when they’re erected (examples here, here and here) and, as a result, they remain one of the least loved pieces of modern digital infrastructure (not unlike mobile masts).

On the flip side, poles remain a common sight across much of the UK and you can typically find plenty of people who would be more than happy to accept their deployment if it meant gaining access to a full fibre network. Likewise, there seems to be no shortage of studies claiming to show how the provision of faster broadband networks – via either pole or underground cables – tends to result in house values going up, rather than down.

We’d of course all prefer it if broadband and mobile infrastructure was totally invisible, but that’s not always economically possible. In a snap poll conducted during July 2021, ISPreview.co.uk 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, but that only reflects our readership.

We did attempt to contact Airband in order to get a comment on all this (several times over the past few days), but their official press address is currently redirecting to an email that no longer exists and another contact we’d previously used failed to respond.

NOTE: The CEO of Freedom Fibre recently did a useful video to present the ISP-side’s perspective on poles (here).

UPDATE 10:09am

A spokesperson for Airband just responded: “Although the required planning notices were submitted, there was a small issue with some of the wording therein. As a result, polling in the area has been paused, and the notices resubmitted.”

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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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5 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Pole police says:

    We’ve all been there, embarrassing, unwarranted pole erections.

    1. Avatar photo Dave says:

      The worst news, is them having to hold their erections. Hopefully not too long!

  2. Avatar photo Robert says:

    Airband are the worst ISP I have dealt with.will never go there again

  3. Avatar photo Mick Turpin says:

    Does not surprise me Totnes residents are angry.
    That lot live like it’s the 1950’s. On the Tones road in to Totnes there is a sign that says twined with Area 51.
    They think drugs, rescue remedy and crystals will cure everything.
    It was the same with a proposal to build a new Tesco in Brixham. Locals didn’t want it. Their nearest supermarket is a 20 minute drive away by the way.
    And again North Devon residents complaining. North Devon is even worse. It’s the Alabama of the UK.
    I know this as I live in Devon and have to experience the yokels which can and is very frustrating.
    Lovely part of the UK, really lovely but the locals are insular, 20 years behind the times and have some very outdated views.
    The problem is that a very small minority shout very loudly like a bunch of crazed, insane, possessed animals and get the locals riled up. Shouting `get off my land` with pitchforks.

  4. Avatar photo Pat Mead says:

    Hi We have notices just come up in Dartington and we are concerned! Any advice welcomed as how to object.

Comments are closed

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