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342 People Oppose Brsk’s Full Fibre Broadband Poles in Burnley

Wednesday, Jan 31st, 2024 (9:13 am) - Score 4,160

Some 342 people in the Lancashire (England) town of Burnley have submitted a petition that calls on the local council to take to halt UK ISP Brsk‘s use of poles in their roll-out of a new full fibre (FTTP) network, which some residents claim has caused them to suffer “panic attacks“.

The operator – fuelled by an investment of at least £259m – is currently focusing most of its network build on parts of Greater Manchester, Lancashire, West Yorkshire and the West Midlands in England (e.g. Cottingley, Clayton, Bradford, Accrington and more). The long-term aim is to pass 1 million homes by 2026 and they’ve already covered 358,000 premises (10th Nov 2023) – falling to 346,000 for those considered ‘Ready for Service’ (the gap largely reflects wayleave delays in secured MDU coverage).

NOTE: Brsk is backed by investment from Advencap and the Ares Management Corp. The company is also home to 14,000 customers (21st Aug 2023).

As part of that work Brsk, much like most network operators, have also been deploying wood poles to help run their overhead cables, which are a very common sight across the UK (millions have been built). Such poles are 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 street works) and can be built under Permitted Development (PD) rights with only minimal prior notice.

The lower cost impact of poles can often mean the difference between building competitive gigabit broadband into an area or skipping it. But not everybody is a fan and those who complain often focus on their negative visual appearance, as well as concerns about exposure to damage from major storms (example), the lack of effective prior consultation or engineers that fail to follow safety rules while building (examples here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here). The issue often becomes particularly emotive in areas that haven’t previously had poles before.

Suffice to say that the situation in Burnley echoes similar concerns, with the BBC News reporting that some 342 residents have now petitioned the council to take action against Brsk’s ongoing roll-out to 50,000 premises in the town. Locals have complained about poles being placed too close to homes (hard to avoid that one as they need to be close), right outside front gates and sometimes in the middle of pavements, allegedly without them being consulted.

On the flip side, Brsk claims they did notify residents about their plans and managers had visited those directly affected (we’ve requested a comment from them as the BBC didn’t include one). Meanwhile, Burnley Council has said they will respond to the petition in due course, although it remains unclear whether they will be able to do as requested (i.e. support the petition’s call for removal of recently built poles and halting further erections).

As we’ve said before, councils are limited in their powers to stop such works and the UK government currently seems unlikely to pay much heed to any attempts to restrict it, as limitations on the build would seriously damage their own targets for digital infrastructure. Lest we forget that quite a lot of people would also be happy to see poles if it meant they could access more affordable full fibre broadband, but such voices are often drowned out by vocal campaigners.

On the other hand, network operators do need to be very careful about their approach, particularly as we go into what will be a General Election year – disputes against poles are starting a gain more political support. We’ve already seen quite a few network operators opting to skip streets when local opposition becomes a concern. The downside is that this can result in a patchwork of coverage, which fuels consumer confusion over network availability.

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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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31 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Amused says:

    Panic attack – without video evidence it never happened.

    1. Avatar photo GG says:

      Even with video evidence it never happened. It’s a go-to claim for a lot of people.

  2. Avatar photo RightSaidFred says:

    Give them a choice between a pole and never having FTTP installed, no doubt they’ll choose the latter whilst complaining about poor internet service levels.

    Add in the choice for road disruptions and higher prices charged for getting the service, they’d choose the latter and moan that the guy on the next street isn’t paying as much as they were fine with a pole.

    Where I live, we’re just glad to be able to get any http service.

    1. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      Surely you’d only accept HTTPS 😉

      Anyway, not everyone is desperate for internet like you. I really want an ALTNET where I live as next road has it, BUT not if it means spaghetti wiring and multiple poles going up making the place look a dump (designated area of outstanding natural beauty opposite the house).

    2. Avatar photo Drew says:

      Burnley already has significant FTTP coverage from Openreach and gigabit connectivity from Virgin Media. The BRSK works have left a significant mess around the town so far, they don’t seem to be winning the PR battle anytime soon. That all makes for a hard sell and low take up rates.

    3. Avatar photo Brighouse says:

      In Brighouse, Brsk turned up, did the necessary work, cleaned up and left, and the gas works people immediately showed up and dug up the same streets again (putting them back in the usual slipshod fashion), and people think Brsk have been working for months and making a mess everywhere. People are not bright

    4. Avatar photo David Wade says:

      They are deploying in South Manchester where we already have BT FTTP and Virgin Cable. They didn’t “consult”. They visited but would not discuss additional poles when they visited. Why do we need additional poles??

  3. Avatar photo Pepstar says:

    I agree with the residents, in 2024 using poles for infrastructure is cheap and Lazy… Housing estates have not had above ground infrastructure for decades, suddenly for cost only they’re putting up poles in neighbourhoods.

    I think this shouldn’t be allowed; it sets a precedent of ‘cheap’ infrastructure rollouts. In my opinion most of these companies don’t care as they won’t be around in a few years, and it will be someone else’s problem.

    1. Avatar photo Jack says:

      Residents should have a say in what goes in their neighborhood

      Because there is no resemblance of democracy, people all over the country are shafted getting their parking removed and some even denied usage of their own roads with the evil LTN

      If you bought a house and there were already poles around us one thing, but if the poles suddenly pop then they should have the right to reject them

    2. Avatar photo XGS says:

      In 2024 it’s still the only way in some places. The alternative is digging in the carriageway and spurring off it into properties which would cost a ton, take an age and be massively disruptive. That would likely still result in strikes on existing utilities, too.

      If the pavements really are so full that there was no room to dig there and existing Openreach ducts were either non-existent or full I’m not sure why they didn’t just leave the estate out. It shouldn’t have been a deal-breaker for the exchange area not building to those parts.

      That said, if Brsk did all the consultation they say they did and didn’t receive that many objections it’s perfectly possible that some of the objections are due to other parties than those directly impacted. Easy to say who should’ve done what, when and how. With no Openreach FTTP in prospect and only Virgin Media to compete against it was a commercially attractive estate.

  4. Avatar photo Bob-de-Builder says:

    The poles are becoming a real problem for communities. In Broadway, Worcestershire the Openreach cables are ducted in the pavements but directly buried in the ground to the properties, so Full Fibre Limited have erected huge poles and run lines from pole to pole while at THE SAME TIME, Gigaclear have installed ducting and toby boxes to each property with both companies vans on the same roads at the same time.

    The residents still have Openreach to come along at some time in the future with their fibre solution. How is this progress in the 21st century?

    Surly the best solution would have been sharing the Gigaclear ducting, or allow Openreach to duct first and then it could have been shared. But Gigaclear are not obliged to share their ducts.

    1. Avatar photo XXX says:

      The problem is – only Openreach is mandated to share their infrastructure. Others dont. In this case GC declined to share – which led to poles… Of course it is not possible for operators to wait for Openreach, if they did – they may as well pack up shop…

  5. Avatar photo XGS says:

    Well: if they’re in the middle of pavements they’ll be coming down again pretty rapidly and moved as that’s not acceptable construction.

    In front of gates ditto. Unacceptable and local authority will force them to be moved.

    Close to homes… that’s kinda the point?

    These folks had that petition running before the poles ever went in the ground: there was no way they were going to be happy with the construction regardless – https://www.burnleyexpress.net/news/people/residents-on-lower-manor-lane-estate-in-burnley-launch-petition-against-telegraph-poles-installed-by-broadband-network-provider-brsk-4341459

    All that aside no idea what Brsk were thinking building all-poles here. Presumably they thought it worth it given there’s no plans for FTTP from Openreach and any ducts present being full alongside crowded pavements will be why. It’s not a large area and leaving it out wouldn’t have been a deal breaker for commercial viability I’d have thought.

  6. Avatar photo Phil says:

    Using poles dating from the time of the telegraph is ridiculous, no other services are routinely delivered from poles to our homes, certainly not new installations. This is important infrastructure, it should be underground where it needs less maintenance, protected from weather events and doesn’t have the strain of carrying its own weight. It’s done because its cheap without any consideration to local residents. Most of these smaller companies will be bust or bought out in the coming years and the fast majority of this black stuff strung above our heads from poles will be unused and will just become the tax payers problem when they start to become unsafe. There also health and safety implications with staff climbing poles, of course these companies don’t care about their staff either, its all about quick returns and making money.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      The fibre optic doesn’t carry its own weight: it’s strengthened by kevlar or some other core. With modern materials the cables have never been stronger proportional to their weight. They’re generally brought down by trees falling on them more than anything else: fibre has been overground for decades in North America and elsewhere.

      We do very much need some regulations / laws on what happens if companies with overground infrastructure go bankrupt though for sure. I can think of one egregious example that’s likely not to be around for too long and will leave a huge amount of mess that the local council tax payers can ill-afford to remediate.

  7. Avatar photo NE555 says:

    Burnley was announced last year as a copper stop sell area, which means that Openreach will soon have blanket FTTP coverage (of at least 75% of properties).

    Therefore, there will be OR poles or ducts providing service to the vast majority of houses. The Brsk network is just overbuild, and it could re-use the same OR passive infrastructure.

    In the worst event, Brsk will put up a pole to service a property that isn’t yet reachable by OR, and then OR will have to put up another pole to service the same property.

    Residents are right to object.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Given Brsk make extensive use of PIA don’t you think if they could have done so on this estate they would have?

    2. Avatar photo FibreBubble says:

      Looking at Streetview it is clear that their are no Openreach ducts on the estate linked to. But there is Virgin coverage. Which leads me to wonder why Virgin are not forced to open up their ducts in such areas.

  8. Avatar photo FibreBubble says:

    Altnets should be forced to share their poles with other operators. This would reduce the crazy duplication of poles by multiple players and give an advantage to underground deployment.

    1. Avatar photo XXX says:

      A lot of them do, or have policies in place (I know at least 2 that do), but OR will not use anyone elses due to their policy. Unless all are mandated to share – not a lot will change…

  9. Avatar photo Bax says:

    This issue is starting to get attention, especially as more rural builds begin this year to comply with the Dec 2025 / 2026 deadlines for those areas requiring funding.

    As a recent example, my local Facebook group had a popular post on local broadband, as a new resident found FTTC was unavailable due to no spare capacity. I then posted to the group that the company FullFibre have confirmed via email that they will be starting the areas FTTP build this year. Wasn’t long before a few negative comments appeared claiming the area will be flooded with new telegraph poles and the council / fibre company will ignore any public complaints.

    This will be an issue for some time, due to the phase in and out nature or fibre and copper living side by side, with villages and town not having the underground infrastructure to run cables. Guess it’s a bitter pill some people will have to swallow, but they’ll also be the ones making the most noise.

  10. Avatar photo Eric Sutton says:

    My estate is served by telegraph poles, hence its ok for poles, if however no poles are around then it should/must be existing underground infrastructure. Im sure the BT lines and ducts are in place.

    What they could complain about is 6Gi/Opus putting poles up every 20 meters right up your street and they really don’t care where they put them, and I’ve seen them not straight or broken in half because they cheaped out on the poles. Rather have a BRSK/BT pole at least they pre-treat and use stronger, straight poles.

  11. Avatar photo Cheesemp says:

    As someone with no poles I get the objection but on the other hand the BT ducts we have are 50 years old (70s) and basically usable. This has resulted in Trooli skipping lots of random houses where they are blocked, and Giganet + Virgin Media both ripping up the pavement to lay ducting resulting in double disruption and ruined pavements. But to be 100% honest I would take any of these options just to get a modern connection… (please hurry Nexfibre/Giganet and go live – Its now only 18 months later than I was originally told by Trooli).

    (I sometimes think these operators need to push the house price rise from having fibre – It might be the one thing to get NIMBYS onside.)

  12. Avatar photo Jim says:

    I’d happily have a Telegraph pole in the front bedroom if it meant I could get FTTP.

  13. Avatar photo TrueFibre says:

    People can very stupid if they were laying cables under ground they would be complain about roads being closed and pavements getting dug up and they take longer too people are so ungrateful

  14. Avatar photo Rich says:

    If the thought of poles causes you panic attacks, you suffer such a lack of intestinal fortitude that you should probably be in some sort of secure unit.

  15. Avatar photo Rob says:

    So in my mum’s road in Swansea openreach (assume it’s them) have clearly been supporting the breeding habits of the telegraph poles as they are popping up everywhere. So much so I’m expecting Dire Straits to reform for a rendition of
    telegraph (pole) road! I have a feeling they are using the new ones as proxies to get around corners so they don’t have to drag the fibre through to all the old ones. Still annoying that the old pole is right next to my mum’s drive so no space to widen the drive like all the neighbours have done! Anyway I’ve made my knopfler joke so will go about my business.

  16. Avatar photo Optimist says:

    I can perfectly understand the objection of residents. Just as changing electricity suppliers does not involve connect your house to a different set of cables, changing ISPs should be just as straightforward, by simply reconfiguring the interconnections at the handover points.

    The present mess is a result of the current regulatory framework enables providers to restrict the use of their infrastructure rather than be open to all ISPs.

  17. Avatar photo Gary Hough says:

    It’s not rocket science. CP’s are using poles because its much cheaper. You want underground fibre to all your homes in Burnley – Then you’d better be prepared to pay a darn sight more money a month for it.

  18. Avatar photo The man about the dogs says:

    This lot of individuals would whinge when there is disruption in the street in which to install underground FTTP. I can perfectly understand those on a relatively new estate in the last 20 years or so complaining about telegraph poles. Given those estates should have very adequate ducting and underground infrastructure allowing for easy rollout of FTTP in that way.

    But the rest where estates have been built 30/40+ years?

    These companies have to be able to make good ROI to make the scheme viable.

    That said those complaining about the telegraph poles…..if you want them underground then how about you pay the ECCs for the Altnets concerned….so you can maintain your pretty or not so pretty view?

  19. Avatar photo Mark Smith says:

    If you go on google maps streeview and visit any road in San Francisco, Seoul, Tokyo, you will not only see overhead lines but an absolute mess of overhead lines.
    These are not some backwaters, these are some of the most affluent developed places on the planet.
    They also have amongst the fastest broadband anywhere on the planet, which they achieved before everywhere else.
    Because installing overhead means it can be done at pace at a fraction of cost and disruption than installing them underground.

    If individuals object to overhead lines being installed in their street, then they should explain why other customers who have overhead lines should be forced to subsidise the installation of fibre underground fibre for them.

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