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Criminal Gang Cuts Down MS3 FTTP Broadband Poles in Hull UK UPDATE

Monday, Nov 20th, 2023 (11:15 am) - Score 10,200
MS3 Engineering Sign

A criminal gang has taken recent protests against MS3’s deployment of telecoms poles in parts of Hull (East Yorkshire), which are being used to carry the operator’s new full fibre broadband ISP network, to a disgusting new level over the weekend by using chainsaws to cut down several of the erections.

Poles used to carry overhead cables are a common sight across the UK (e.g. Openreach has 4 million of them), which is in no small part because they’re quick and cost-effective to build, can be deployed in areas where there may be no space or access agreement to safely put new underground cables, are less disruptive (avoiding the noise, access restrictions and damage to pavements of major street works) and can be built under Permitted Development (PD) rights with only minimal prior notice.

NOTE: The lower cost impact of poles can often mean the difference between building competitive gigabit broadband into an area or skipping it entirely.

However, not everybody is a fan of poles, which is an issue that is cropping up more and more as network operators expand their FTTP broadband coverage (examples here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here). Complaints often focus on their negative visual appearance, concerns about exposure to damage from major storms (example), the lack of effective prior consultation and engineers that fail to follow safety rules while building.

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Gripes like the ones above are particularly common in areas that haven’t previously had poles before, as well as in areas of outstanding natural beauty, or where operators decide it’s a good idea to force deployment of a pole into small private gardens (most operators are sensible enough to know to avoid that).

MS3’s deployment around parts of East Yorkshire (e.g. Hedon) has similarly been in the news a few times (e.g. here, here and here), with residents in several areas becoming reasonably successful at attracting support for their campaign. The East Riding Council even ended up suspending MS3’s build in the area over “allegations of unsafe work activity”, but they secured the green light last week to resume work after making commitments to improve safety standards and communication.

When absolute muppets attack

Unfortunately the recent protests in parts of Hull appear to have just taken a darker and much more sinister turn over the weekend, which came after we started receiving reports, from various sources, about a gang using a chainsaw to cut down MS3’s poles in part of Hull, such as on Waveney Road in Longhill. MS3 has confirmed that they met with local police this morning to discuss the attack against their infrastructure.

The activity is also depicted in a grainy video on social media and some pictures, although we’re unsure about the legality of reposting that video and don’t currently have copyright permission to share the private images we’ve seen (it’s unclear who took them). Officially, two MS3 poles are known to have been cut down in this way.

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An MS3 Spokesperson told ISPreview:

“Two of MS3’s newly installed telegraph poles were subject to criminal damage this weekend, with a video of the illegal activity posted online. Whilst the police investigation is underway, we cannot comment on the act itself however we are extremely disappointed with the actions of members of local protest groups condoning this behaviour online.

Telegraph poles weigh hundreds of kilograms and there is very real danger of loss of life from deliberately damaging them. MS3’s number one priority is the health and safety of our workers and members of the public.

We hope to see all parties involved condemning these actions and reflecting on the narrative used up to this point. We believe the day-to-day harassment our contractors face when lawfully installing new equipment, as well as the misinformation posted online, has ultimately led to a small group of individuals deciding to commit a serious offence that may have endangered lives.”

Just to be clear, protesting – both fairly and legally – against the deployment of new broadband and mobile infrastructure is one thing and many support that, but taking this to the level of causing deliberate criminal damage to a UK communications network is an extremely serious offence and one that can rightly result in convictions that may lead to prison. This is to say nothing of the obvious cost and safety implications of such vandalism.

Protestors in the area have, thus far, actually been fairly successful in garnering support for their cause, which makes it all the more surprising that some would now choose to go this far. Such extremism may well cause the local campaign to lose some of its hard-won support, particularly from key politicians, who will often distance themselves from radicalisation.

Local campaigners had previously been calling for a change in the law, which they’ve suggested could involve deployments of new poles – and other telecoms infrastructure – needing to go through the planning process (i.e. the bits that are normally classed as Permitted Development). But such a change could end up causing significant delays to deployments of both mobile and full fibre broadband networks and push up their build costs, which would impact coverage targets – affecting those in some of the hardest to reach locations the most.

The government are currently looking at the issue, but they’re also mindful of the fact that any new red tape would seriously damage their own targets for digital infrastructure coverage, while also ignoring the many people who are still pleading for faster broadband and better mobile connectivity. But criminal activity, like what we’re seeing above, will only make it harder to secure agreement on this front.

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UPDATE 21st Nov 2023 @ 10am

We’ve managed to get a brief statement from Humberside Police on the matter.

A spokesperson for Humberside Police told ISPreview:

“We are investigating reports of criminal damage caused to telegraph poles on Waveney Road in Hull at around 8pm on Friday 17 September.

Officers are carrying out lines of enquiry, including reviewing CCTV footage in the area around the time of the incident to identify those involved.

If anyone witnessed the incident or has any information, CCTV or dashcam footage that may assist with our enquiries, please contact us on 101 quoting crime reference number 23*164506.”

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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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51 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Craig says:

    https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:7132093522169475073/ is the video in question of these muppets cutting down the pole that I grabbed from Facebook but now appears to have gone. It isn’t totally clear who took it but if you listen to the audio it sounds like the individuals who cut down the pole videoed themselves doing it – totally stupid!

  2. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

    Perhaps this is part of a broader picture, of a deteriorating national sense of compliance with the law. The epidemic levels of shoplifting, wilful disruption by orange-jacketed protestors, destruction of London’s LEZ enforcement cameras, the cutting down of the tree at sycamore gap, blatant and routine smoking of weed in public, all these things suggest that some parts of the nation have basically taken a leaf out of the government’s own thinking that “rules don’t apply to us”.

    1. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      Very true. But as law breaking goes to the very top – let us not forget the current Prime Minister was fined for his part in lockdown parties, it is not surprising people think they have right to go outside the law although cutting down the poles is dangerous and stupid.

      Just remember this: Anarchy is not a country with no laws. Anarchy is a country with thousands of laws and no one taking notice of any of them.

    2. Avatar photo Robert says:

      Perhaps this is also a sad reflection that our communities are seen as commercial opportunties to be exploited for the benefit of one or two rich people, and not as pleaseant, attractive places to live. Also a sad reflection that our government agrees with the capitalists and cleary does not do enough to protect the wishes of the residents.

      I wonder how many of the MS3 Exec team live in this neighbourhood.

  3. Avatar photo Adam West says:

    They think they are clever but they are arseholes, no better than people who break into other peoples houses.

  4. Avatar photo Mr Smith says:

    The area is nothing special (a little low life for me), can’t figure out why people are so upset that they would cut poles down.

    1. Avatar photo Cheesemp says:

      Because its a nice band wagon to jump on?

    2. Avatar photo Random Precision says:

      Install metal poles…..not as easy to vandalise.

  5. Avatar photo Gareth says:

    Simple solution, put the cables underground where they belong! Absolute ridiculous that we are going backwards and using poles for internet!

    1. Avatar photo Lister says:

      If the cost is too high for that, then where possible I’d say it’s better to skip those communities. But having a moan at poles is no excuse for criminal acts like this.

    2. Avatar photo Cheif says:

      Hope you are stuck on ADSL speeds for the rest of your miserable life

    3. Avatar photo Gareth says:

      LOL, cheers. It sounds like you’re the miserable one. I was just stating that cables are better underground, you know where they should be, not on show for criminals and potential major storms to take them out.

      A few brain cells are all you need…

    4. Avatar photo Mr Smith says:

      @Gareth But who should pay the additional undergrounding costs? I would say the residents but I can’t see that happening as they are probably all on benefits or working cash in hand, hasn’t the road already got poles so what’s the big fuss.

    5. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Agree with Lister. If folks in KCom land are content overpaying for services leave them to it. Even the cable companies couldn’t get near it, though given KCom was council owned at the time I can imagine why.

      The irony of KCom using Openreach PIA while their own solution doesn’t seem workable else MS3 and others would be using existing infrastructure as they do outside of KCom-land isn’t lost on me. Neither is that the role of KCom seems to be largely ignored.

    6. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      Putting cables underground is more expensive and if you want to pay the extra for it then fine. The other problem is that some ducts are blocked, a fair few around here are blocked. Digging up roads and pavements to put fibre in don’t make people happy either, when ZZoomm was installing their fibre they made a mess in some places and now some of the pavements are worse than they have ever been. A lot of people complained about the mess and just not here either, in other towns where fibre have been laid.

      I don’t see the problem with poles, as long as they are at a sensible spacing, but maybe that is because poles are all I have known.

      Myself I prefer the wireless way, like I had a few years ago, no cables at all, but that did not work out so well

    7. Avatar photo New_Londoner says:

      @Gareth
      Others have commented on the additional costs so I’ll not repeat that point. I will however note that my own house is served with fibre from a telegraph pole, as are communities in locations as far afield as San Francisco and Hong Kong. It’s hard to understand why some people on here are troubled by something so innocuous.

    8. Avatar photo XGS says:

      No-one cares, Adrian. All about the commercial case. Your random partially dug and partially PIA street is absolutely nothing special or noteworthy.

      People are by default hostile to having pavements excavated. Have to win them back having scarred their pavement for the first time if it’s new stuff. If it isn’t have to compete with the first company to scar and, likely, Openreach alongside.

    9. Avatar photo Dave Webster says:

      Going backwards is watching fttp pass by because you don’t like trees without leaves on.

    10. Avatar photo Nick says:

      Putting in poles is an eye saw and going backwards. When KC moved into the surrounding areas they managed to put all their infrastructure underground. These areas already have poles and who really wants a street full of poles a few feet away from each other.

  6. Avatar photo Edward says:

    I doubt it is a criminal gang. No money to be made.
    My money would be on
    disgruntled locals.
    Leave them without connection and lagging behind in competition and choice of service providers.

    1. Avatar photo Jonathan says:

      Its Hull, everyone has access to FTTP already. The rules need to change so no extra poles if FTTP exists or existing telecom network is underground under permitted development.

    2. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      A crime is not defined by whether or not money is involved. It may well be “disgruntled locals” as you say, and their gripes might well be justified, to some degree. But cutting down telecoms infrastructure is very much considered a criminal act in the eyes of the law. Telecoms is CNI and strictly protected. Similarly, people cannot obstruct telecoms engineers in the course of doing their job.

      During the COVID pandemic a fair few vigilante types went out, fuelled by conspiracy theories, and damaged street cabinets, as well as mobile masts. Quite a few of them found themselves being sent to jail for several years. Whatever your protest, NEVER, EVER take it to this extreme. If you are caught, then the sentences can be very strong.

    3. Avatar photo Martin says:

      Jonathon – the existing ducts could be so blocked as to be unusable (I know the pole serving me was recently changed by openreach to be served by pole rather than underground). The ducts may also not be openreach so unavailable for PIA.

      Either of which could if such s rule wasn’t drafted properly restrict competition quite badly

    4. Avatar photo S says:

      @Martin good point, the existing infrastructure in Hull probably is non-OpenReach, I don’t think KCOM have to do PIA.

    5. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      It was a poor decision by Ofcom not to make PIA a mutual thing.

  7. Avatar photo Jason says:

    no doubt promised underground cabling and given this instead . Cant blame them to be honest

    1. Avatar photo A.N.Other says:

      Can’t believe that contributors to these comments are condoning these criminals.

      Hopefully Humberside police will make some arrests soon.

      And my message to the NIMBY’s. Wake up and join the 21st Century!

    2. Avatar photo Sydney Ross says:

      Fake News

  8. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

    You have to question what MS3 is trying to achieve. I don’t think annoying your potential customers before you’ve sold them anything is an optimal strategy especially if the area has good coverage already. The altnets are already struggling to get decent take up. My guess is that they are building it with a view to selling it on and therefore want to do it as cheaply as possible.

  9. Avatar photo XGS says:

    This is Waveney Road, HU8 on the Longhill estate in Hull, right?

    Going by a quick Streetview this road is at least partially, didn’t go down the whole thing, served by poles already. This isn’t an area that was previously all underground and has abruptly had pristine views interrupted.

    On a street that was already served overground it looks less like direct action as a protest and more like vandalism that was looking for a target. I really hope this is being condemned by all sides.

    1. Avatar photo Matt says:

      or disgruntled local provider employees who don’t want the competition? (Speculation, obviously..)

      One of the other areas theres huge push back for poles also has an office of a differing provider…

    2. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Think KCom are pretty safe while MS3 etc continue to, well, appear to be cuckolded by them.

      Openreach didn’t want to provide the PIA product they do now. When given the same regulations KCom have now they produced a product not fit for purpose. Other operators complained and, eventually, Ofcom required a product that was fit for purpose. I don’t see any reason to think that the KCom PIA product is any more usable than the original Openreach PIA product was.

      Why would KCom make life easier for MS3 or any other operator on their patch without being compelled by regulation? Their ideal is that MS3, etc, don’t exist. They have no reason to change that position beyond the regulator getting involved.

  10. Avatar photo RandomGeezer says:

    It’s interesting how uneventful MS3s deployment in North Lincolnshire has been, compared to the HU postcodes. I’m amazed they still haven’t given up and moved on to other areas in Lincolnshire and rural East Yorkshire, even if just on Health and Safety grounds for their operatives.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Strange that. Maybe Ofcom should look in to it given the campaigners and politicians seem oblivious.

  11. Avatar photo XGS says:

    KCom are playing a blinder here by the way. I’m not sure what KCom have on MS3 but it’s beyond comedy that they still seem to think that KCom have any interest in providing them access to their duct and pole infrastructure at any price. Maybe KCom have something over them, no idea, but bizarre they aren’t shouting more loudly over the KCom PIA product. Plenty jumped up and down over Openreach’s first iteration of PIA as it wasn’t fit for purpose.

  12. Avatar photo Nick Roberts says:

    Luv the characterisation in the title of the article . . . chopping down one pole is “Criminal activity” . . . wheeras, of course, demanding money with menaces for the payment of inflated utlity bills (Which could have been avoided in unprivatised systems sporting more “Redundant capacity”) isn’t . . always think that when I get the warning message when I make a payment thru my on-line account.

    But I suppose that Mark has to keep on the right side of “He who pays the piper”

    Looks like Focus groups and resident “Consultation” exercises don’t always do the business . . . who would have guessed . . a?

    There’s not much in the future to look forward to, but I suppose a new addition to the mass of different “Ground-Hog” days would be interesting . . . “Timber”.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      That makes very little sense. A pattern on your recent comments here. You okay?

    2. Avatar photo Billy says:

      @XGS Why are you bringing Brexit into this? don’t keep on with the sour grapes because of the outcome.

    3. Avatar photo Dave Webster says:

      Put the pipe down , open the door and go outside.
      The real world is calling.
      If it’s legal to put up the pole and multiple affiliated people cut it down.
      Criminal gang is ok by me.

  13. Avatar photo Brian Taylor says:

    They are not crimmal gangs it’s people who are fed up with there street and estates blighted by cowboy firms installing poles everywhere regardless of local people’s views the majority who don’t want them They thought they were having broading choice but it’s like the wild west in East Yorkshire you have areas were everything is underground now blighted be triple firms putting poles up all next to each other .In areas were the have pole the regulations should permit one pole and have multiple ISP using it
    One small stree has 15 poles put up

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Yes, it’s like the wild west in East Yorkshire. Maybe you’d care to take a minute to work out why it’s that way when that isn’t the case everywhere else in the UK.

      Could maybe, just maybe, start looking at KCom rather than assuming every provider using Openreach infrastructure suddenly can’t be bothered in KCom areas and chuck up poles instead.

    2. Avatar photo Dave Webster says:

      XGS they don’t like brown poles round that way, oh the irony. 😉

  14. Avatar photo Mike says:

    If the useless police don’t attend a burglary then unfortunately it’s fair game for everything else, And the only people to blame are the ones that elected them. Pure and simple

    1. Avatar photo Billy says:

      @Mike How do you elect the police?????

    2. Avatar photo Dave Webster says:

      You can elect you local crime and bs member forget the name but it’s like councillor for the police.

  15. Avatar photo Nick Roberts says:

    Telegraph poles are yesterdays technology and well past their sell by date.

    Who in the new “Property owning democracy” (Cough) wants their street diminished in appearance and value by the addition of these things – unless of course you have an overwhelming desire for your street to resemble the average “Flown” cable festooned South-East Asian street.

    As said before, my personal experience, of 30 years ago (Sinful making reference to history, of course) was that installers for cabling would try it on then (Trying to install a pole sans way-leave from the property owner) . . and they are still doing it.

    I would have thought 30 years is sufficient time for the Regulator and HM Government to get their act together on this matter

  16. Avatar photo Nick Roberts says:

    Funny, but I don’t recall seeing any “Flown” Gas mains following the National North Sea Gas conversion programme.

  17. Avatar photo Nick Roberts says:

    One does wonder whether some of the installers/providers are under capitalised and that’s why telegraph poles are being plonked-in and why so many of these providers are going ponto and being taken-over (If they are lucky).

    That said, do recall that the Telegraph replaced the Pony Express.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      The last time businesses built competing commercial network all underground they ended up in bankruptcy protection.

      No monopoly, no business case to go all underground regardless of funding unless cherry picking the most dense terraced streets with tiny frontages.

    2. Avatar photo Fttx says:

      Customer drops still have a place from poles, they are low cost, will break and easy to fix. Quite sensible and essential.

      What seems a step backward is when the feeder network (overlayed from multiple operators) now runs pole to pole as standard. It is required in some areas but it’s a bit frustrating to see ULW spans running pole to pole when it is a soft dig or there is duct infrastructure. Granted its faster.

      With new ULW feeder cables there ‘could’ be 700+ customers on a cable.
      Quite a valuable asset that is ‘designed to break’ like a drop cable to protect poles.

      We can mock Asia etc but they may have one up on us… they use strong aerial cable infrastructure.

  18. Avatar photo James says:

    Yet MS2 I stalled them underground on Beverley Road. In Hull we have Connexin, MS3, Grain and more all installing their own sets of poles even on streets were no one is interested in their services. What a waste of money. Many of these streets have no poles at all until this happens. Thanks to the Tories you need planning permission for an extension or large shed but not for a Telegraph poll or 5G tower and councils have no power to stop it. Many are not happy and are welcoming this news because they are fed up of it.

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