It looks like any further broadband/mobile roll-outs that rely on street furniture to house the electronics may be facing an uphill struggle. The Fibre to the Cabinet roll-out by Openreach involves locating a second green street cabinet near to an existing cabinet and the new cabinet houses the VDSL2 hardware.
Protests about the new cabinets are nothing new, Brighton was the focus in July 2010. Now it seems St Albans is on the agenda with a local resident looking to up the ante with a view to controlling the proliferation of the cabinets. A meeting is due to take place with Openreach bosses on September 22nd.
Under current rules Openreach only requires planning permission in conservation areas, in other areas they can simply carry out installs. The same rules apply to Virgin Media if installing new cabinets to enlarge its cable footprint, or other telecommunication firms engaged in roll-outs such as Rutland Telecom.
A lot of the anger is about a failure to notify residents of the installation, thus giving them a chance to object to the location. While alternate locations can often be found, this can result in cabinets being further away from the existing cabinet (thus more work to connect the two), or alternate cabinet designs being used that may have more limited capacity for customers once the system is live. The knee jerk response is to simple assume that this is largely a nimby problem, but residents may be aware of safety and other issues with a street that are not obvious when looking at a map, or carrying out the preliminary site survey.
Openreach has three main cabinet options currently, though to date the stand-alone cabinet (which is larger than existing street cabinets) appears the most popular. Other options to date are to rebuild an existing cabinet enlarging it in the process, or mount a box on top of the existing cabinet. The ultimate solution in terms keeping people happy would be a waterproof VDSL2 brick, but these would serve only a small number of users.
Looking at this from the view of those looking for faster/better broadband, one upshot may be that Openreach may end up spending more on the roll-out than originally expected, and thus not so many cabinets will get VDSL2, or areas are left with oddities, where certain streets do not have access to VDSL2 while the other 90% of an exchange area does. Given enough money a fibre to the premises roll-out, negating the need for large street cabinets would be the solution, but the costs of this are prohibitive and the level of pavement/roadworks may still make this solution unpopular.
Maybe we need to start a campaign entitled 'Love a street cabinet' so people can register and Openreach approach them about using part of their hedge/garden to locate a cabinet in a less intrusive location. At the end of the day, it is not just Openreach creating street clutter, there is a much wider picture in some areas, with things like excessive road signs, parking meters, speed humps, bollards and all the other things you encounter on pavements.