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Council Suspend MS3’s Full Fibre Poles Rollout in Hedon Over Safety

Thursday, Nov 2nd, 2023 (4:33 pm) - Score 3,312
MS3 Fibre Optic Dig

The East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) in England appears to have handed anti-pole campaigners in Hedon a small, if most likely only temporary, victory by suspending MS3‘s deployment of a new 10Gbps capable full fibre (FTTP) broadband ISP network in the area over “allegations of unsafe work activity.

The MS3 deployment has hit the headlines a number of times over the past few months (here and here), with residents in part of the town protesting against their use of wooden telecoms poles to run the new cables – as opposed to putting everything underground (often at significantly greater cost).

NOTE: MS3 is being backed by an unspecified investment from Asterion and has so far covered 158,779 premises passed (119,139 Ready for Service).

Such poles do not require planning permission and are less disruptive to install, but some people – usually those who live in areas that haven’t had them before – tend to view them as being ugly and less durable in storms. The fact that poles can appear with only the most minimal of prior notification is another bugbear that can rub people up the wrong way.

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In recent weeks the situation in Hedon has become particularly combative, with some residents doing everything they can to physically obstruct MS3’s deployment of new poles (blocking roads, parking over build sites etc.). The police were even called in to help resolve one such dispute. But the latest development has seen the local authority suspend MS3’s build in the area over “allegations of unsafe work activity” (BBC).

A council spokesperson said:

“In response to the feedback from the local community, the council has decided to suspend the ongoing works of MS3 for their project in the area. The works of MS3 will resume only after the council is satisfied necessary adjustments have been implemented.”

A spokesperson for MS3 informed ISPreview that the suspension related to a video that was posted on social media this week, which allegedly appeared to show one of their contractors operating after dark “without following all our own strict health and safety guidelines for these circumstances.”

A spokesperson for MS3 said:

“We have subsequently agreed with the East Riding of Yorkshire Council to pause poling works in East Riding whilst a full health and safety reviews takes place. We met with Council officials this morning (2nd November), who were supportive of our plans.

This does not impact other areas of our build or when using underground delivery or utilising third party infrastructure. We are fully committed to ensuring we, and our contractors, exceed minimum criteria for our build standards whilst continuing to provide much needed broadband competition in our area where we are seeing hundreds of new customers signing up to save money every week.”

A quick Google suggests that the video in question might be this one, although it’s unclear if this is actually the case (there’s precious little detail or identifying information). But MS3 have otherwise agreed to the responsible approach of pausing their work while a safety review is undertaken. Contractors do sometimes cut corners and, given the spotlight that MS3 is under, we suspect they won’t have been happy with any lapses in this area.

However, campaigners seem unlikely to be satisfied until there’s a change in the law, which they’ve previously suggested could involve deployments of new poles – and possibly other telecoms infrastructure – needing to go through the planning process (i.e. the bits that are normally classed as Permitted Development). The local Conservative MP, Graham Stuart, will next week accompany campaigners to parliament, where they will lobby for a change in the rules.

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The catch is that such a change could end up causing significant delays to deployments of both mobile and full fibre broadband networks (both overground and underground) and push up their build costs, which would impact coverage – affecting those in some of the hardest to reach locations the most.

The government currently seems unlikely to pay this much heed, as any restrictions on build would seriously damage their own targets for digital infrastructure, while ignoring the many people who are still seeking access to faster broadband and better mobile connectivity. Lest we forget that quite a lot of people would be happy to see poles if it meant they could access full fibre etc.

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Mark-Jackson
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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17 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Anon says:

    This is the wrong company to suspend! They should stop IX Wireless instead

    I saw they were building in Manchester their rediculous metal poles, on the same street there were two actual FTTP providers (Grain and BRSK) – What is the need for another???

    (IX Wireless don’t provide actual FTTP but instead installs massive cell towers that transmit the broadband, in the process most of the speed is lost)

    1. Avatar photo Anon says:

      Just to clarify I am not against poles
      I respect the build of other actual FTTP networks like MS3.

  2. Avatar photo chris says:

    funny thing is that consumers convert their physical BB to wireless anyway so why bother with the cable to the home when a wireless connection to the home will work just as well?

    there was a thing a few years back where they where going to use the copper lines as a wireless guide, upping wireless bandwidth hugely, AT&T where evangelising about it but been a while since then and searching now is useless as keywords are swallowed in their FWA drive to ditch copper.

    there was also a plan to connect servers in DC’s via wireless, each server getting 10gbs+ etc, again that was a while back.

    My point is that wireless is not the slow dinosaur you are making it out to be & can be hugely fast when designed & implemented right, even at scale

    1. Avatar photo Anon says:

      Yeah, I can understand that as I used three until an altnet popped up on my street. In my experience with 2 years of wireless 5G, it was too volatile to be worth it over full fibre.
      Yeah, it filled the gap back when there was just ASDL, however, it had a lot of downsides such as high ping.
      I don’t think the average citizen would want to put up with that, whichever technology you use, it will still be subpar compared to a fixed-line FTTP

    2. Avatar photo Chris says:

      Experience tells a thousand tales

      I’ve been on vm/ntl in the majority since 1996 mainly due to availability and cost.

      It sucks.

      But I appreciate there is better.

      Wireless from a mobile transmitter some distance is different from the tech AT&T was talking about.

      Their tech was a transmitter on the pole the copper line connected to your home and used the copper line as a guide for the wireless, very different to the wireless router/ap you may be familiar with.

      likewise with the server wireless tech which was very short range high frequency high bandwidth connections.

      The evolution in speed is very much about the transceivers ability to differentiate signal from noise especially at higher frequencies and lower db. Medium (radio/copper/fibre) helps in that ability to differentiate in ascending order but modern technology just gets better and better at it coupled with ever more complex modulation like qam-256 etc that allow more bandwidth on the carrier but the same trick works across mediums with distance being the defining reason to use different mediums.

      Wireless is fine over short distances where the transceivers can get enough signal to work properly and there are enough channels and transceivers to allow for enough useable bandwidth.

      Most domestic users on gigabit bb won’t have sufficient kit to saturate their uplinks, anyone who does will have invested in extra equipment.

    3. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Most domestic punters on gigabit won’t have a PC with a gigabit Ethernet port, a PS5 or XBox Series S/X?

  3. Avatar photo FibreBubble says:

    This is about the wilful disregard of safe systems of work rather than the aesthetics of the poles. Clearly MS3 have no checks or supervision of their subbies methods despite being under intense scrutiny.

    1. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      Not unusual for the altnets. They’ll do whatever they think they can get away with. I saw a company near me (probably Swish but the vans were unmarked) with manhole covers up and no barriers around them pulling fibre cables in. My experience with companies like these is they have safety procedures but are more than willing to turn a blind eye to transgressions if it saves them a few quid then hide behind the safety manual if they get caught or something goes wrong.

  4. Avatar photo Matt says:

    The campagin about this has been unreal, it does come across as one person been against the company which has then drawn everyone else into yet these same people will be the first to moan they were paying Kcom too much been in a Kcom strong hold for years or when service doesn’t work so you cannot win with them.

    Kcom have never been against them using their infrastructure which is what MS3 have done in nearby BT land south of the Humber but what doesn’t help is other companies such as Connexin are doing the same and there are lots and lots of poles appearing over Hull and nearby East Riding places.

    I do get that it looks unsightly and have driven down streets recently where you have gone from a few Kcom poles which are overloaded with their new Lightstream fibres which is at pretty much every property to these poles stood a few foot away from them in some cases to another for Connexin a bit futher up but they are just trying to get in where people want to move as there hasn’t been that chance before. Some joint up work together could have stopped this, not sure who is ben stubborn but I do know Kcom have never said no.

    I will admit I do prefer underground but then that drives the costs up so what do people want? The way many of this group have acted in blocking streets so that they cannot get down, parking cars, protests, even the Police ended up getting involved and its not a criminal issue. Are they going to scrutinise Kcom next time they come to add a new pole or replace one in Hedon? They will be the first to moan when the Kcom network goes down and they cannot stream their Netflix!

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Certainly keep seeing the usual suspect in the news articles on the matter.

      MS3 must have some seriously high sunk costs to still be bothering with this. Other altnets when poles raised this level of ire just walked away.

  5. Avatar photo Richard Branston says:

    The allegation of “unsafe” largely seems to come down to the single complaint of working taking place after dark.

    That isn’t at all unusual – many infrastructure projects are progressed in the hours of darkness. Some because the daytime works have over run and the “job” can’t be left half finished due to safety reasons. Even the local council will have done infrastructure works after dark – road planing / new tarmac etc etc.

    This kind of action / complaint is precisely why everyone lands up complaining the UK has fallen behind – even when legislation permits companies to crack on and build things, small vociferous groups cause delays and additional expense to be incurred by infrastructure builders.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      ‘This kind of action / complaint is precisely why everyone lands up complaining the UK has fallen behind – even when legislation permits companies to crack on and build things, small vociferous groups cause delays and additional expense to be incurred by infrastructure builders.’

      This is true. This helped cost the North HS2. The Lower Thames Crossing planning application alone has cost £270 million.

      Basically no-one likes infrastructure being built near them and it loses votes regardless of how quickly and how profoundly it delivers benefits. The sooner politicians accept this and take longer term views than the next election the better for all of us.

      If it’s any consolation, though, most of the English speaking world is awful at infrastructure. See California’s attempt at high speed rail or various projects in Australia.

  6. Avatar photo Nick Roberts says:

    Contractor obviously hoped if they did it during the evening commute it would be too dark to see and everybody would be too busy to take action.

    Just as well that North Sea Gas Conversion was completed in the 1970s . . . otherwise, who would have known what would have happened.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Or they were running behind and were trying to complete their job list for the day rather than some nefarious plot to sneak poles in at a time when the largest number of people would’ve been passing by and had sight of them.

      At a guess on the North Sea gas conversion there’d have been more complaints and in trying to accommodate those it would’ve taken far longer and cost far more.

  7. Avatar photo Ray Duffill says:

    I do believe that MS3 should have walked away from trying to plant poles in Hedon when they knew the level of opposition that existed. For them, the additional resident scrutiny has unearthed contractor working practices that have resulted in a catalogue (literally) of complaints sent through to East Riding Council citing breaching of council regulations and HAUC specifications. And it is now becoming apparent that MS3 simply got away with this in nearby Hull and other areas because nobody has been looking or monitoring them.
    For the industry as a whole, the whole issue of the unintended consequences of permitted development legislation has come to light; particularly the proliferation of poles in some areas as different Altnets compete with each other. We already have three sets of poles in some Hull streets, and there is the potential for even more!
    The poor operating practices of MS3, the chaos and upset they have brought to local communities, and their lack of community engagement skills now so apparent, WILL lead to a tightening of the existing powers that local authorities do have now to monitor and manage infrastructure builders.
    The regulation and legislation changes demanded by campaigners may worry readers of ISPreview, but they will rebalance the system in the favour of residents who want a discussion and to be involved in the rollout of new technologies constructively. The days when the likes of MS3 can force communities to accept unwanted and unneeded telegraph poles are numbered.
    And rather than ‘usual suspects’ behind the campaign in Hedon, and now nationally, I am pleased to say that we have a thriving national campaign being built with some very capable organisers indeed.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Ah, Ray, the hyperlocal blogger, you have been expected.

    2. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Okay more reasonable time so can write a little more.

      What frustrates me is you folks have elected yourselves to try and dictate national policy and, as a result, millions may end up waiting longer for and potentially require our money to fund their full fibre.

      There are relatively few areas with grievous issues. The IXWireless areas are pretty egregious and a local solution should be undertaken. That rollout is unacceptable. Poles for backhaul when PIA is available, then their ugly masts. There is something very wrong with all of that that doesn’t pass the sniff test.

      The overbuilding of Gigaclear by FullFibre with new poles in the Cotswolds is bizarre and I’m very much not a fan of that either.

      As far as you guys in KCom land go the mind boggles. You seem utterly convinced that these providers are putting poles up for fun, meanwhile outside of KCom land they are making as much use as possible of Openreach infrastructure via PIA.

      Rather than the OTT remedies you guys want perhaps you’d care to find out more about why the issues are so much worse in Hull and the East Ridings.

      Starts with K, ends with ‘Com’ if that helps. Clearly their passive infrastructure product is problematic else these providers would be using it as they are as much as possible everywhere else in the UK.

      A quick read of some of the group and comments shows the level of misinformation/ignorance. One person thinking that MS3 are receiving taxpayer funding to build their poles, another that the expressly legislated for ‘permitted development’ on poles is a ‘loophole’. It costs £500 to stand a pole, why would a network builder do that if they could use existing infrastructure, drop the capital expenditure and just lease the duct/existing pole space?

      Your issue is local. What gives you the right to try and dictate to the rest of the country when, for the most part, poles being permitted development is tolerated as it’s far more sparsely used?

      I’m fine. Choice of 3 fibre infrastructures. Many aren’t so lucky. I don’t see why they should suffer and I and others should pay more tax to cover the bureaucracy because of a relative few who seem determined in the case of the epicentre of the issues to ignore the root cause: Ofcom didn’t regulate a PIA product in the manner they regulated Openreach and KCom’s product is, clearly, not fit for purposes as no-one uses it to any scale.

      KCom should’ve been privatised at the same time BT were, or better yet mandated to provide point to point fibre everywhere. Had they done that you’d have had zero additional broadband network build either via poles or underground.

      Your pole build is OTT with multiple altnets throwing poles up all over the place. I’m sorry about that. Get it sorted locally, stop with seeking the extreme remedy that’ll cost me money and others full fibre for years. Councils should be given more ability to reject pole builds under certain circumstances, absolutely, forcing every one to go through the same process as mobile masts of >15 metres in height is insanity.

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