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Diana Johnson MP Petitions UK Parliament to Tackle Telecoms Poles

Thursday, Mar 9th, 2023 (10:18 am) - Score 3,800

The Labour MP for Hull North, Dame Diana Johnson, has presented a petition to parliament – signed by residents of Hull North – that urges the government to make it a requirement for new telecoms poles to apply for local planning permission and consult residents before being built – risking delays to the gigabit broadband build.

At present a mass of network operators are currently rolling out a new generation of gigabit-capable broadband networks across the UK (Summary of UK Full Fibre Builds). The most expensive and disruptive way of doing this is by digging trenches along roads and pavements, although most operators are also deploying plenty of poles (telegraph / telecoms poles) – most of which are made of wood and stand around 8-9 metres high.

In some cases, the ability to deploy poles can even make the difference between an area being covered by a new full fibre (FTTP) network or not (i.e. underground builds are not always economically or practically viable). But poles also have a growing tendency to divide public opinion (examples here, here, here, here, here and here), particularly when built into an area that previously only enjoyed the benefits of underground infrastructure.

Opponents of such poles, who frequently complain about their visual appearance, often also like to highlight concerns over their durability due to the risk of damage from major storms – a risk that many would suggest is only going to increase due to climate change. Last year, Openreach stated that 650 poles were “badly damaged and need replacing” during a series of storms (here), but that’s a fraction of the 4 million they manage across the UK.

In the past, it was harder to deploy new poles, but the rules have long since been softened to aid the rollout of faster broadband and mobile networks. Today poles are 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, often without residents getting much of a say. Operators usually only need to give the most minimal of prior notices (e.g. sticking a notice to a lamp post).

The new petition effectively proposes to reverse that and re-introduce a lot of the red tape by “[requesting] that the House of Commons urge the Government to make statutory requirements for designated communications network operators to apply for permission to the LPA on any proposed installation of telegraph poles and for the LPA to consult with affected residents before issuing any permissions.”

NOTE: It’s currently unclear how many people signed the petition.

Dame Diana Johnson said (House of Commons):

“I rise to present a petition signed by residents of Hull North regarding the installation of telecommunication telegraph polls. Many of my constituents in Hull North, and indeed residents across the country, have found telegraph poles erected close to their homes, outside their front gates or in the middle of the pavement, without their permission or any advance notice.

With no requirement for local consultation, there is no opportunity for residents to have their say. This petition reflects the strength of feeling of many residents, both in Hull North and across the country. The situation needs to be challenged.”

At this point it’s worth noting that Diana Johnson is also the MP who tabled a new private members bill last year – Telecommunications Infrastructure (Consultation) Bill, which proposes similar changes (here). But it probably won’t get very far without government support. The new petition could thus be seen as lending some weight to the argument and further raising the profile of related concerns.

The Government similarly seems unlikely to support anything that would reverse the changes they’ve made to planning and thus disrupt or delay their £5bn Project Gigabit broadband programme, which recently started to award its first batch of major rollout contracts for rural areas (i.e. operators have all based their cost and build models on the existing flexibility).

We should point out that poles are a common sight across much of the UK, and you can 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.

Naturally, we’d all prefer it if broadband and mobile infrastructure was totally invisible, but that’s not always economically feasible because underground deployments tend to be significantly more expensive. In some areas, the choice is thus between either having poles or no fibre at all.

Back in 2021 we asked 657 of our readers whether they would accept poles to get FTTP, if the alternative meant having to wait years longer for the service, and 71% said they’d take the poles. More recently we asked 400 readers if, when looking to buy a new house, the existence of poles in the street outside to carry fibre would be a major negative factor in their decision – 77% said no.

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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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45 Responses
  1. Avatar photo dee.jay says:

    These poles are the main reason Netomnia have managed to deploy pretty much everywhere nearby to me, but not in my street or the few around. We don’t have poles, but also no ducts, so no full fibre here. Somewhat concerning also – recently discovered that even Openreach comes up as “unplanned” on BIDB.UK which gives me no hope at any FTTP. I’d happily let them build a pole on my property if it meant I could get FTTP. Annoyingly there are poles behind my house, but they dont extend right to the end of my street – but there’d be scope for some new poles I’d say.

    Not sure what the problem with the poles are, though.

    1. Avatar photo Matt says:

      KCOM have finished upgrading to FTTP and it’ll stop/slow any competition using poles ??

      I’m not sure it’s a good thing my mind immediately went to lobbying.

    2. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      There needs to be some kind of published rules around them.

      You can’t have a situation where there are BT poles and an ALTNET chooses to use their own and then do not co locate with existing ones. If another ALNET comes along, before you know it you have a mess of poles and wires everywhere with different paths. For example, Netomnia’s poles were much taller then BT’s. If you live in an area where you have a view, last thing you want is a pole put up just to make a company money when you live there even if you don’t own the view as such. Likely chance they could have used a BT Pole or co-located with an existing one or just rethought the location better.

    3. Avatar photo Chris C says:

      I live on an estate where all the properties severed by drop polls all now have openreach FTTP but several parts like mine are fed underground. Guess what …. openreach skipped my property and everyone else in the town feed by underground. No pole no FTTP in alot of openreach areas. Id rather have a pole and FTTP than no pole and no FTTP

    4. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      on set of poles is not necessarily the issue. No one has said “No poles” – just sensible rules, like many ALTNETs overbuilding in an area, not erecting poles all over the place with wiring in all directions.

  2. Avatar photo Phil A says:

    I visited friends in a Netomnia deployed area where they have used existing poles to string fibre infrastructure, so not many new poles. I was struck by how dark and imposing it was walking around with the all the cables above your head which were quite thick. Whilst one operators copper telephone cables are not two noticeable above your head, adding bundles of fibre cables and for more than one provider did look messy and ugly. Friends and their friends in the area were not enamored by it either. Some of our streets are starting to look like the sort of cabling you see unapproved in shanty towns in third world countries!

    1. Avatar photo CJ says:

      One reason for this seems to be the way they use overhead connections between poles, rather than feeding each pole from an underground duct, even in urban areas where the existing copper network runs underground to each pole.

      Their cables between the poles are thicker than the existing dropwires and have a longer span, so they hang lower. This makes them much more noticeable.

      This method also means they sometimes need to add an extra pole to get their fibre round a corner.

  3. Avatar photo Dazmatic says:

    Poles are a great idea as it enables cheaper and faster roll out – no different to expanding electricity networks via transmission lines (They’re not called pylons!)

    However, what I don’t agree with is what they’ve done in my local village to support a new development. It appears they’ve run out of capacity on a handful of poles and just installed new poles next to the old ones. Right next to them. As in you’d struggle to get a fag paper between them.

    It looks hideous as the original poles are leaning and it’s clearly been done in a hurry.

    1. Avatar photo Anthony says:

      There should have been a deal where if someone gets Fibre from either Openreach or any of the altnets. The old copper cable for them gets removed from the pole to the house. It is totally worthless once someone gets FTTP. If they did that so many (or even any) new poles won’t have been needed.

    2. Avatar photo Andrew in Worcestershire says:

      “It looks hideous as the original poles are leaning and it’s clearly been done in a hurry.”

      And on the cheap. Amongst other critical things for altnets, Speed of roll out is essential to try and get ahead of OR or VM FTTP, and cost per property served is vitally important because all these businesses are bleeding cash through their startup years. If it were cheaper and more reliable than poles they’d pay tramps to stand and hold the cables. I wonder why they didn’t use PIA.

    3. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      @Anthony, I agree, the pole by me at the moment only have 3 fibre connections on, but already it looks a mess, if everyone connected to the pole have fibre, there is going to be a lot of cables on it. I am used to poles, we have had them around here since when ever, I don’t remember not seeing poles around here, but they need to be tidied up.
      it is the 5G masts that telecom companies are having problem with getting permission around here. Our council have stopped 3 in the last 3-4 months and all from Three

  4. Avatar photo Optimist says:

    A guaranteed vote loser for councillors. Approve poles and you lose the votes of those who don’t want them nearby. Refuse poles and lose the votes who want better broadband.

  5. Avatar photo NOT IN MY BACK YARD!!! says:

    Permanently aggrieved NIMBYs moan about everything, it’s their favourite hobby.

    1. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      Not everyone is obsessed with internet broadband, particularly if you live in a decent area with decent views.

      One set of poles is one thing, overbuilding by various operators and poles everywhere with spaghetti wiring firing in all directions is another.

      Sensible rules around this like reusing poles, only two poles next to each other or consolidation onto a new pole for multiple operators, maybe removing any redundant stuff.

  6. Avatar photo Phil says:

    I rather to have Three phase 7/8 5G monopole mast in my garden! I will accepted it.

  7. Avatar photo Jonny says:

    How much cheaper are poles than soft verge digging once you factor in the need to have bucket trucks and engineers who can work at height to perform installations? I know putting poles down is cheaper than trenching but how about 20-year costs?

  8. Avatar photo Anthony says:

    I hate Labour more than I hate the Taliban….They really are despicable in everything they do. Labour would happily have a town swamped with migrants from every country on earth, but a pole. Oh my God we must stop those going up. People don’t want poles in their neighbourhoods…

    1. Avatar photo Clive peters says:

      Lol. I’m sure there’s a Pole pun here

    2. Avatar photo Nth stage Labour derangement syndrome says:

      So Anthony I take it you’ll be moving to Afghanistan when Labour almost certainly forms the next government?

      If so will you be an expat or one of those dreaded invading migrants?

      Either way bon voyage!

    3. Avatar photo Flame Henry says:

      Imagine getting so angry every time you hear that other people think differently to you.

    4. Avatar photo Reality Bytes says:

      Imagine being so angry you bang on about migrants on a post on Internet Service Provider Review on telecommunications poles.

    5. Avatar photo Anthony says:

      “So Anthony I take it you’ll be moving to Afghanistan when Labour almost certainly forms the next government?”

      I would be seriously inclined to move to Poland. I don’t think you realize how bad things are going to be under Labour. The whole world will want to move here and Labour will just let them all come and give them free council houses and benefits that locals have to all pay for.

    6. Avatar photo Sam says:

      If the tory open borders policy is already horrible then the labour even more open borders will be a catastrophe

      Their boss Klaus Schwab will claim these are climate migrants and that you paying more taxes is necessary for these albanians fleeing from their mild weather

    7. Avatar photo Nth stage Labour derangement syndrome says:

      You’re on another planet dearest Anthony, I recall more than one Labour administration and it’s self evident that practically everything (that can be influenced by central government) is has got far, far worse since the last one.

      As for the rest of your ‘project fear’ nonsense, it’s absolutely risible.

      Enjoy Poland!

    8. Avatar photo I BLAME THE LIZARD PEOPLE! says:

      Still with all this Klaus Schwab / WEF / great ‘replacement theory’ nonsense?… Bless!

      Turn off the Alex Jones show un-bookmark 8chan, take responsibility for your problems rather than scapegoating everything and everything else sweetheart.

    9. Avatar photo Stew Smith says:

      Project fear, or how the government manipulated covid compliance using fear, is now proven to be completely true with the release of Matt Hancock’s Whatsapp where he discussed about dropping the next variant to scare the public

      Even Bill Gates owned Guardian is finally reporting it as true

      It’s exactly as Elon Musk said yesterday, because conspiracies have all been proven true we need the theorists to work faster because sheep will close their eyes even when their own outlets have to report on the actual truth

    10. Avatar photo Ah ha! Proofs sheeples! says:

      Yes Stew… Whatsapps and Musk’s ramblings prove that there’s an overarching global conspiracy by the WEF (or another ‘NWO’ group) to seize control of the global economy and irradiate white people by replacing them with migrants… That doesn’t require any irrational beyond ginormous leaps to pre held conclusions.

      Bill Gates had to come into it somewhere too…

      Perhaps God Emperor Trump, who definitely won the 2019 US election and is STILL the US President will save us from those wicked evildoers?…

    11. Avatar photo Abdullah says:

      There’s no point in trying to use actual evidence against them, they will remain ignorant until their OS is updated

      I would say time will tell who’s on the right side of history but facts just keep coming out. The ones on the side of censorship are losing: project fear, lab leak, jan6, Russia hoax, FTX scam, vaxx efficacy, “horse dewormer”, BLM, Hunter Biden laptop, Nord stream pipeline, “transitory inflation”, “2weeks to flatten the curve”, blaming Russia for missile hitting Poland…

      No worries let them keep reading the guardian (and selectively ignoring anything challenging previous narrative)

    12. Avatar photo Keith Obvious says:

      There’s no poles in Poland (everything is underground)

  9. Avatar photo Reality Bytes says:

    The only change I would like to see would be requiring an altnet that installs a new pole to open it up to everyone. There’s a poor guy a few streets away with 3 poles abutting his property.

    1. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      Here, Here Reality Bytes (sheesh, agreeing with him a second time)…

  10. Avatar photo James says:

    See, if only she put as much effort into questioning KCOM why they won’t share infrastructure, as she did campaigning against telegraph poles, then we’d be in a position where these poles wouldn’t be needed.

    But there we go. Logic, or lack of.

  11. Avatar photo Golden Horse says:

    The NIMBY strikes again. I wonder how much KCOM gave her for that one.

    1. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      Not everyone is obsessed with internet broadband, particularly if you live in a decent area with decent views. Your view doesn’t mean its more important than anyone else in a democracy.

      One set of poles is one thing, overbuilding by various operators and poles everywhere with spaghetti wiring firing in all directions is another.

      Sensible rules around this like reusing poles, only two poles next to each other or consolidation onto a new pole for multiple operators, maybe removing any redundant stuff.

  12. Avatar photo David Burns says:

    It seems like an ideal time to use existing street lights fitted with multi-gigabit Terragraph wireless equipment.

    This way, project gigabit gets completed faster and with less cost and fewer complaints from householders.

  13. Avatar photo Jason says:

    Actually agree with this , as this would include cell towers as well. It would also force operators to build the network underground keeping areas of natural beauty nice and also cleaning up our streets from
    insightly cables .

    Power should also follow

    1. Avatar photo MikeP says:

      It would also force operators not to supply these areas, or charge a significant premium to do so.


  14. Avatar photo JohnH says:

    If this is the level of NIMBYism from a few poles and fibre cables just wait for the uproar from the network upgrade to support car chargers and heat pumps in every house.

  15. Avatar photo JM says:

    If you want the infrastructure then you have to accept the means in which its delivered. It is right that companies do this via the most cost effective way possible, as well as safe and secure. So those who complain about lack of FTTP or mobile coverage, then have a word with your neighbours who are putting in the objections to planning consent. Not everything can be delivered underground when you aren’t an incumbent who effectively had a national network gifted to them.

    NIMBYism is rife throughout this country and its holding us back, yet the same people complain they can’t get good broadband or mobile coverage. If you want better coverage move somewhere it exists or where there is a tolerance for the buildout of the infrastructure.

    Can’t have it both ways.

  16. Avatar photo Ian says:

    Apparently some people just love needless, stifling bureaucracy.

    1. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

      So whats wrong with a published set if sensible rules then? Did you read above about multiple poles fro multiple overbuild operators and spaghetti wiring firing out all directions? Some of us live in an area with decent views and not all people need a desire for broadband. I want fast broadband but don’t want stupid decisions like I stated. Same reason as building regulations, they have a purpose.

  17. Avatar photo Anon says:

    You can’t dig to install fibre, you can’t use poles, you can’t install new 4G/5G towers, you can’t upgrade existing infrastructure… a bit too much, don’t you all think?

    1. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      nobody or few are saying that. If you read, you would see the suggestion of sensible rules to prevent multiple poles from multiple operators and spaghetti wiring everywhere across streets from multiple poles.

      Who said you couldn’t dig? They’re better hidden, BUT the protests come when you have multiple providers all doing overbuild, digging up roads and pavements – never ending inconvenience and damage.

  18. Avatar photo Steve says:

    KCom would share their poles subject to a PIA type contract. MS3 have just blitzed the Anlaby/Kirk Ella/Willerby area with new ducts and poles and it is an eyesore. I doubt many residents realise these are permanent additional infrastructure and not replacements for the existing poles! My house is currently fed by a KCom pole. MS3 has added an additional pole plus a UG swept T toby box by the look of things suggesting I could choose OH or UG feed. Why do I need a choice – the pole is there regardless which is quick and simple. UG always throws up challenges.

  19. Avatar photo G Glover says:

    Living in conservation area doesn’t mean that damn to these companies. Putting a post because it’s cheaper, it’s all about saving money rather than respecting where people live.

Comments are closed

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