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Broadband ISP Brsk Face Full Fibre Anti-Pole Campaign in Burnley UPDATE

Thursday, Aug 31st, 2023 (8:51 am) - Score 5,736
Brsk engineer next to telegraph pole

Broadband ISP and network builder Brsk, which has so far deployed their own gigabit speed Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network to 250,000 UK premises (RFS) – mostly in the Midlands (rollout plan), is facing a petition from 40 residents in Burnley who want to see their newly installed telecoms poles removed.

Like most full fibre builders, Brsk has been deploying plenty of poles (telegraph / telecoms poles), which are usually made of wood and stand around 8-9 metres high. This approach tends to be much more cost-effective and less disruptive to local residents than digging trenches for underground cables. The lower cost impact can often mean the difference between building into an area or skipping it entirely.

NOTE: Brsk is supported by at least £259m of funding from Advencap and the Ares Management Corp. The operator aspires to cover 1 million homes with FTTP by 2026 – focusing on the Greater Manchester, Lancashire, West Yorkshire and the West Midlands of England.

However, poles also have a growing tendency to divide public opinion (examples here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here), particularly when built into an area that previously only enjoyed the benefits of underground infrastructure. Complaints often focus on their negative visual appearance, concerns about the risk of damage from major storms (example), and the lack of prior consultation.

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

In this latest example, more than 40 residents of Garswood Close in Burnley complained that brsk had installed the local poles without any consultation. According to the Lancashire Telegraph, residents on other streets in the Lower Manor estate have also raised complaints. It’s worth noting that, at present, Garswood Close can only access gigabit-capable broadband via Virgin Media’s (VMO2) existing network.

A second online petition for the area has also been set up, which rather oddly moans that “these 10m poles, erected outside our homes and cluttering our streets with wires, are hindering our progress towards faster broadband connectivity … We must consider alternative methods that do not compromise the aesthetics of our neighbourhood while still providing us with access to advanced technologies“.

In the past, we have seen some similar campaigns succeed in discouraging the deployment of new poles by various operators, but that usually only has any impact if they’re able to prevent the build before it happens. Getting existing poles removed is a costly ask and less likely to work.

One local county councillor, Usman Arif (Burnley North East, Labour), is however alleged to have written to Lancashire County Council and asked for related works to cease with immediate effect, until further consultation has been carried out. But it remains unclear whether that will have any impact.

Statement from brsk:

“At brsk, we take community engagement very seriously and are therefore very concerned to hear that residents feel we have not fulfilled this aspect. We first notified the residents of our intention to install infrastructure in the area in June 2023 via letters to every home. We followed this up with dedicated engagement managers, who visited those who would be directly affected by poles outside their homes. We’re disappointed to hear that despite our efforts, residents feel that sufficient effort was not made on our part, as we have received a significant amount of positive interest in the area. Hearing that residents have not been satisfied with our level of engagement, we will arrange for our Community Liaison Officers to visit the area and speak to the residents personally.

We always ensure that the council is also well aware of our activities. In this case our permits were approved by the council after we shared our plans for the street with them, but we would welcome the opportunity to engage with any local councilors who would like to work with us to improve the digital connectivity in Lancashire.

The inference that the poles are detrimental to getting a faster broadband connection is untrue and we are concerned that residents are signing a petition based on false information – the online petition states that “the poles are hindering our progress towards faster broadband connectivity.” In fact, currently these poles are the fastest way for this and other communities to get faster broadband connectivity. In addition to this, full fibre, which brsk is deploying in the area, is the leading technology for fast and reliable broadband.

70,000 homes across the Lancashire region can already enjoy the benefits of full fibre thanks to brsk. This work is in support of the Government’s 2019 manifesto to deliver nationwide gigabit-broadband (which is only achievable with full fibre) by 2025. In February 2022, the target was revised to ensure that gigabit-broadband will be available nationwide by 2030. Therefore, brsk are making Lancashire one of the best digitally connected regions in the country and creating the opportunity for Lancashire residents to take up world class broadband now. The community should be proud to have been prioritised so soon, in the deployment of full fibre broadband to their area, while many parts of the country patiently wait their turn.”

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 new full fibre network. Likewise, there seems to be no shortage of studies claiming to show how the provision of faster broadband networks and greater competition – 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, power 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.

UPDATE 3:39pm

We’ve updated the article above with a statement from brsk.

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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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42 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Cheesemp says:

    Oddly I have the opposite issue where I am. All the providers are trying to stay under ground to match my 1970s estate. Trooli probed the 50 year old ducts and just skipped most of the estate rather than clear the ducts. Giganet seem to be slowly deploying via mole but a rate of a 2 roads a month (Its a big estate so I’m about 6 months away). Virgin media are surveying but I expect them to use a mole too (hopefully faster than giganet). I’d happily have a pole if it finally got any deployment to my road… (30Mb FTTC is not enough with two professionals working from home).

    1. Avatar photo Pole or not to pole... says:

      I’m surprised that they object to having poles put up and cables running to houses from them.

      And yet they seem happy for Virgin or want other companies like here to dig up their beautiful road.

      They moan about ugly looking poles and yet the street residents are happy, or maybe they are oblivious to what happens next…

      To have to put up with their pretty looking gardens being dug up for a cable route from the trenches in the pavement to have fibre installed.

      Let me guess, their attitude is that our gardens we can make look pretty again, where as poles we can’t!

    2. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      “Let me guess, their attitude is that our gardens we can make look pretty again, where as poles we can’t!”

      Congratulations, you answered your own question. Soft dig is very easy to reinstate, when I had Virgin installed it only took a week or two for the grass to grow back.

      And that only affected me, not the whole street.

  2. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

    damage from major storms? LOL, Poles have been used in places for years and still standing even after major storms, well major in the U.K. But I can kind of understand why they don’t want poles if they have never had them, why not use the ducts that are already in place?
    I am used to poles, so it don’t bother me, I do think that we have too many cables on some, certainly now with FTTP being rolled out and the copper cables staying in place. But in one way I am glad they are staying in place for a while at least, give me a chance to go back to FTTC if this FTTP don’t work out.

    1. Avatar photo Pole or not to pole... says:

      They say Virgin have already dug up and laid their own cables in street, so if I remember rightly, Virgin won’t let other providers use their own trenches.

    2. Avatar photo Danny says:

      Pole or not to pole, I believe virgin do offer some sort of pia but I aren’t aware if any alt uses them

  3. Avatar photo Pole or not to pole... says:

    Simple and easy answer, if they object to the poles then the street can come together and fund it themselves to have them removed and for the trenches to be built instead for the fibre to be installed if the whole street are insistent on it being hidden underground.

    In the meanwhile, the company can carry on installing fibre to other residents in Burnley who would happily have fibre to their property and are not concerned whether it comes via trenches or poles and if it spoils the look of their street.

    As already stated, their house price would actually increase with having fibre to their property, and yet these street members think that by having a street pole outside or near to their building makes their property look ugly or devalues it!

    1. Avatar photo Flame Henry says:

      Or… how about companies entrusted with building critical infrastructure that’s going to stick around for the next 40+ years actually, you know, do a proper job!

      If they want to spin up a business for a few years to make a quick profit, open a Vape shop. If they want to be an infrastructure provider and permanently interfere with peoples neighbourhoods, then they should act accordingly.

    2. Avatar photo Fastman says:

      Flame Henry — the cost do that that underground will be 500 – 800 more per premise that by pole by pole — that means you so you might break evening in about 2045 on the cost give or take — clearly someone who has not idea around the actual commercial case of building a FTTP network in a direct in ground estate

  4. Avatar photo Flame Henry says:

    Don’t be fooled into sympathising with BRSK here. This is a dense housing estate in Burnely. Burying cables would certainly pay off in the long-run, but it takes longer and costs more so… F!!k the residents, BRSKs need for cheap RFS so they can flip the company for a small payday in the near future is more important I’m afraid.

    Everyone should be holding these companies to account. They are making a quick buck with no accountability for negative externatlities.

    Planning departments should be permitting Overhead build only as a last resort.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Do you know the condition of the Openreach ducts, if there are any, Henry? The estate looking at the properties could easily have none.

      Have a look at CityFibre’s cash burn versus premises passed. They aren’t exactly rocking rural areas and they’re spending a grand to pass each premises.

      Last company to dig those streets went through bankruptcy protection. It’s not exactly a promising sign for others considering it.

    2. Avatar photo XGS says:

      ‘Planning departments should be permitting Overhead build only as a last resort.’

      Just FYI these builds don’t require planning permission as a general rule. Planning departments don’t get a say.

      Given you know the viability of full duct and Toby build for this estate, a not especially dense one, looks like it’s all semis, surprised you weren’t aware of that.

    3. Avatar photo FibreBubble says:

      >>Planning departments should be permitting Overhead build only as a last resort.

      ..and they should be forced to share their poles. Altnets are like buses, next thing you know their will be another load of poles from another player and then a third when Openreach turn up.

    4. Avatar photo Flame Henry says:

      >Just FYI these builds don’t require planning permission as a general rule.

      I know. I’m suggesting the planning departments get more involved here. The whole point of a planning department is to balance the wants of developers against the rights of residents to hopefully end up with an improved quality of life.

      I’m also not suggesting they use OpenReach ducts either. If they want to be a ‘fibre builder’ then they should build their own ducts and if they can’t afford to do so, they need a better business model.

    5. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      @FibreBubble agreed, its ludicrous that you can end up with a pole per altnet.

      As for pole vs underground I’d be rather annoyed if ugly poles popped up.

    6. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Yeah the duplication of poles isn’t great.

      What’s wrong with PIA? You rather there’s no competition to Virgin Media and Openreach and they carry on doing what they have for decades: overcharge and underperform as they’ve a duopoly?

    7. Avatar photo Somerset says:

      Round here OR poles have 2 altnets using them.

    8. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      @XGS I like PIA, I’d far rather existing BT ducts got used than roads got dug up all the time. I’m not opposed to the reuse of existing poles, while I’d like to see them all converted to underground realistically BT isn’t going to fund that.

      What I’d like to see is a “PIA buyback” scheme in DIG areas (or poles needing replacement) in which ducts built to Openreach spec by altnets can be bought by Openreach when they deploy in that area.

    9. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      XGS: “You rather there’s no competition to Virgin Media and Openreach and they carry on doing what they have for decades: overcharge and underperform as they’ve a duopoly?”

      Arguably there’s huge competition between both, and that’s why BT Group have a trivial market cap compared to any comparably sized US networks player, and why VM make next to no money on their cable operations, which provably don’t generate returns anywhere near their cost of capital.

  5. Avatar photo XGS says:

    I see their point however there are a lot of street lights on the respective streets so it’s not like they’re devoid of overground infrastructure.

    I wonder what this 6G the petition refers to is. If it’s what I think it is fun times as it requires even more masts that 5G.

    1. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      Street lights don’t have wired going all directions from the top of them.

      6G Internet refers to IXWireless deploying in that area.

  6. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

    I’ll be excited when they finish the build at whalley range (near moss side) – finally we will be able to ditch the ADSL copper!

    1. Avatar photo Robert says:

      Are they using poles there too? Just interested if the BRSK model is to always use poles?

    2. Avatar photo ppiixx says:

      Answering the other comment: their Manchester network is a mix of PIA sharing the openreach poles/ducts and in-fill of their own poles

  7. Avatar photo Anthony says:

    Like usual 40 people are going to ruin things for the silent majority…

  8. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

    Looking at the mess Swish have made of the paths in Banbury I wish they had stuck with overhead poles. Apparently they have to come back to our street to redo the tarmac that they didn’t do properly first time round.

    1. Avatar photo Anthony says:

      Looking at the Better internet Dashboard they all seemingly have to do that. You often see mentions of remedial works due to sunken flags being mentioned for re-work for these ISPs.

    2. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      Apparently they didn’t seal the edges where the new tarmac joined the existing tarmac!

  9. Avatar photo Daminous says:

    The people are right to object against BRSK, as this is doing things on the cheap, and nasty. I’ve an uncle who still live in one of the family mansions (we call them that as he is the 7th generation to live there) and the house doesn’t even have Roofing felt, that’s how old we’re talking when the areas was built on.

    Anyway long story short, he’s even had BT come out recently telling him about the whole digital switch, and they’ll be using the Telephone poles to run the lines in, and going on about how the electrics, double sockets etc (house has old school electricity unites, wiring, mand even has the old circlular plug soickets in it) all will need to be done before it happens, and the shocking amount it will cost.

    Lets just say my Uncle told BT to go jump, like these people are telling BRSK, as the engineer told him BT’s not going to tear up all the area, and will to dig up the house area will all fall on my Uncle, not BT. This is ridiculous in that FIBRE IS SUPPOSED TO BE ALL UNDERGROUND, and the surrounding areas were as now finding out when built over the years never had fibre placed underground either, and more and more are being told the same.

    The house where I live now was built in 1982, and EE’s told me I’m in a full fibre area, and peddling me the lies about how it’s all BT, and not EE and coming telling me how BT will be trying to run fibre from the cabinet to the pole, then into my house, yet across the street has had Virgin media over the years, and had the junction box outside their houses. EE sent an engineer out, and he claims it is a full fibre area, just there is no underground cables, as BT did it all on the cheap when the estate was built, and thus the’ll claim to install full fibre via the pole, which isn’t full fibre, and BT, EE’s claiming it is, and would be charging as full fibree, when it is in reality only FTTC.

    As this whole thing is coming to N. Ireland, we are finding out the whole scam that is coming with it, and that the whole FTTP as they claim, will in fact be sold as FTTP, but is nothing but FTTC and restricted to 80mpbs internet. EE even claims I am in a 900mb area, but BT’s admitting that wouldn’t happen unless they spend the money and tear up the entire estate, and install what should’ve been done from the start.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      This comment makes very little sense to me.

      Something about a family that’s lived in the same house for 7 generations which is a little weird outside of mansions and nobility, a claim an uncle was told they’d have to pay for Openreach to build full fibre to everyone which wouldn’t happen, something about Northern Ireland having no FTTP when it has more FTTP than any of the other home nations, something about how fibre via poles isn’t actually fibre as it must be underground.

      Am I just being a bit thick here in reading this as total nonsense?

    2. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      @XGS Nope, I got lost reading it about halfway through.

    3. Avatar photo 125us says:

      Fibre from a pole is FTTP, not FTTC. Why do you think otherwise?

    4. Avatar photo Roger_Gooner says:

      @Daminous: “FIBRE IS SUPPOSED TO BE ALL UNDERGROUND”. Not so, a lot of it is on poles.

    5. Avatar photo Harv says:

      Nice rant but utter rubbish

  10. Avatar photo Annoyed of Hyde says:

    Meanwhile, I can’t get BT or anyone else to use their existing ducting to install because apparently I now need an MDU… the rest of the area is overhead apart from my 70s estate. Make your mind up.

  11. Avatar photo The witcher says:

    Presumably either no existing openreach ducts exist or they are full/blocked. By getting their poles in 1st they have effectively blocked anyone else from doing so. Any other providers will have to resort to underground deployment and the extra costs that will involve. It’s just business.

    1. Avatar photo HullLad says:

      Unfortunately not – planning laws were relaxed, so just because there’s already a pole down a street doesn’t mean another can’t stick their own in now, and they don’t even have to ask resident’s permission.

  12. Avatar photo HullLad says:

    It does seem rather strange that I have to get planning approval to replace a 6ft dead hedge with a 6ft fence on my own property, yet network providers have carte blanche to stick intrusive poles wherever the want without so much as a ‘by your leave’.

    It’s a real problem in Hull – the glut of network providers over-building one another and leaving some streets looking like a caber tossing contest went wrong is really annoying residents. Of course, they have a scapegoat in the form of KCOM here, which is the default whenever the altnets are criticised in the media.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Yeah I’ve seen streetworks in Hull. One network builder is doing it basically all with poles.

      PIA evidently isn’t viable in Hull.

    2. Avatar photo Fastman says:

      No PIA in hull because everything is kingston telecom and no openreach network no no PIA

    3. Avatar photo XGS says:

      There is PIA in Hull but how viable it is to use I’ve no idea.

  13. Avatar photo Julie E says:

    Just had someone from BRSK knock on our door – Woodgrove Rd Burnley, so say in a week’s time, they will be digging the road and pavements up to install cables. This is the first we have heard of it, so they DO NOT engage with the local community at all. We all ready have access to high speed broadband on this road via cable. It’s also a conservation area. Not impressed, so they won’t be getting my business regardless.

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