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Campaign underway to control number of street cabinets
Wednesday 08 September 2010 15:00:05 by Andrew Ferguson

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.


Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
Oh dear... I can see this as either another storm in a teacup or the start of something big and unpleasant. As you say in the article the more money spent on consultation and moving cabs different options means the pot gets smaller and the planned 2/3rd of the country may well shrink a lot smaller. Even worse if somehow the rollout gets stopped completely because of complaints. Again as stated FTTP would do away with the need for cabs but we also know that just isn't going to happen any time soon for costs reasons.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
So for my outlook now is:-

Minority of customers want much faster up/down speeds

Majority of customers probably aren't bothered they just want a decent stable connection

Minority (and growing) amount of customers are getting miffed at the green boxes which could jeopardise FTTC full stop.
Posted by nmg196 over 6 years ago
The new cabs are pretty big and ugly. I think they should they have put more effort into piggybacking or replacing the existing cabinets rather than doubling up on them. It's a shame they can't simply put everyone on to FTTC by default for phone and internet and completely remove the old cabs and associated wiring all in one step (which would probably require legislation).
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
I've no idea how much each cabinet option costs but I would assume they are trying to rollout as many as possible with the funds available so will be taking the lowest cost option so its available for more premises, it looks like that is now starting to upset more people.
Posted by fibreop over 6 years ago
what is wrong with people now a days its just a green cabinet if it means i could have 50 meg broadband they can put it in my front garden...
why do some stupid idiots stand in the way of progress
Posted by spinneybel over 6 years ago
Supposedly the green boxes are a huge blight on the scene according to the negative attention seeking protestors. Haven't they got better things to do with their time? Like nabbing pet owners pooping in the local parks?
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
Suppose its different in each case fibreop... our cab is right on the main road I can't imagine anyone making a fuss over a new cab next to it to be honest. Or I hope not anyway in 3yrs time or whenever/if ever it comes.
Posted by jrawle over 6 years ago
Oh dear, there's the usual selection of people condemning the people who have complained. Not everyone lives for broadband, you know. Some people value living in a picturesque street. The new cabinets are also quite tall and could block light if they were in front of your house. I guess those commenting aren't home owners and don't have pride in where they live.
Posted by cjbell68 over 6 years ago
@spinneybel - I've never seen a pet-owner poop in a park but I entirely get your point!

More seriously - it's a shame people get unhappy about the new tech' sadly though a problem we won't have where I live for some time as we're likely in the final third.
Posted by jrawle over 6 years ago
Interestingly, in this area they did replace the old cabinets (which must have dated from late-70s/early-80s) when they installed the new FTTC ones. As far as I could see, the innards were kept, but the old green box around it was replaced with a more modern one. The FTTC is still in a new larger cabinet next to it, though, not integrated in any way.
Posted by djfunkdup over 6 years ago
re:spinneybel 'Like nabbing pet owners pooping in the local parks'

dont the pet owners down your way have toilets they can use..? bad enough the pets pooping but the owners as well...gawd.. ;)

Posted by Legolash2o over 6 years ago
Yeah it's a shame that they can't replace the old ones or have them in the ground.

@fibreop, i wouldn't mind having it my garden either, in fact doesn't faster broadband but your house value up? When i move home i certainly would look for the fastest broadband!
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
@jrawle, I'm certainly not condemning anyone they've ever right to complain, I'm saying that if this carries on I expect it will have a serious impact on the rollout
Posted by spinneybel over 6 years ago're quite right it's not just about broadband. There's always a select few who have nothing better to do with their time then to complain about anyone or anything. This is just one of these instances. It has nothing to do with owning houses. I feel sorry for them.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
The other cabinet options which Openreach does have all have the problem of supporting fewer users.

Openreach is planning on 10% to 40% takeup of FTTC on each cabinet, so it is possible that small options may be possible in some areas. I suspect we will see all the larger (more potential for takeup) done first, and then possibly revisiting the cabinets with fewer customers on once the money starts coming in.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
The only trouble with using the options that support fewer numbers is if in the future the demand outgrows that small cab aren't we likely to see more "BT wants to charge me £550,000 for FTTC and my neighbour already has it?" articles ;o)
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
I support this campaign IN PART but before the fanboys shout, NOT just in regards to BT the same goes for Virgins cabinets or any others from various companies beginning to pop up. They abuse their power as they dont need planning permission and basically do as they please. There is no reason BT, Virgin or the ilk couldnt write to people in a road a cabinet is planned in asking basically who is happy to have a cabinet near them. They spend millions sending us their flyer tripe so a nice letter asking people opinion wouldnt hurt.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
Also do all these cabinets have to be green? Can they not be painted to blend in a little better (example if they are placing one in front of a brick wall paint it to look like a brick wall) Im sure a small business, local artists or community would love to help out, encouraging even more smaller business or individuals to become involved in these tough times, make some money and help there self and the economy.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
The campaign itself may just be a few busy bodies that dont want cabinets, and i dont agree with that, we all need future proof communications. Its clear BT, and others could do a lot more to not upset members of the public. Instead for now they abuse the power that they dont have to seek permisssion. So i wish the campaign well, if a big organisation doesnt care you have to let them know your feelings.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
I support anyone who wants to have a say in their local environment. As others have said there's more to life (a lot more!) than stupid broadband. I wish more people took a pride in where they lived.

Having written that though an organised protest movement sounds like a bad idea. It will make complaining a social activity and some people will join in just because they can.
Posted by loadbang over 6 years ago
I’m not complaining, I do not mind the green cabs. However, one end of my street has five cabs in line (two BT, two cable and one Central Networks/E.On), and BT are going to put a 6th in. We have two cable ones of the other end of the street too.

BT also seem to be putting them in silly places. I have seen some in the middle of paths or on the kerb, or even in the middle of pelican crossings where you have to walk around the cab to press the traffic light button and walk around it to cross. Whereas cable boxes are usually on the far side of the path.
Posted by loadbang over 6 years ago
Also, what is up with the new telegraph poles? They are made of metal, coated in vinyl to look look like wood, about 1 and a half feet in diameter and half the height again of the old ones. They do look odd.

I really should go and get some photos one day if I get time.

@GMAN99 My neighbours have cable, all enjoy 50Mb. However, the cables were not laid the last 20m to my house, and Virgin want £3,500 to lay the cable.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
(cont'd) if it's gets big enough it could have a national impact on BT's plans and that's a step too far in my opinion. It's not like the cabinets are dangerous to health - they just might look a bit ugly.

IMO that doesn't warrant whipping up public opinion. Let locals complain if they want to but don't encourage them.
Posted by rogan8 over 6 years ago
@loadbang . That Pole maybe a mobile mast in disguise. The giveaway will be a cabinet nearby with the mobile operators details on it and no overhead cable on the pole.
Posted by themanstan over 6 years ago
Interesting to see that an earlier news story about VM is not getting the airing that BT has in the same town...
Posted by planetf1 over 6 years ago
I'm with carpetburn - local competitions to design a cab, and get local artists/schools etc to paint the cabs for free in a style appropriate to the area..

It could encourage a new game of "cab spotting" - on the look out for the best designs!

Maybe we can extend this to 3G masts too - sorely need one where I live. And why do most ppl still not realise that
a) Their own mobile/wifi/laptop/ipad is far more significant due to distance from body
a) having a mast nearby *reduces* signal levels from the mobile device transmitting

Posted by planetf1 over 6 years ago
Need to educate ppl, embrace change & look for new opportunities that cut across cultural boundaries!
Posted by russianmonkey over 6 years ago
Wouldn't it all be easier if there was just one communications network that was all fibre and there'd only be a need to have one cabinet where there may be 4-5 for different providers....
Posted by Somerset over 6 years ago
Add cabinets for mobile phone masts in streets.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
@themanstan, yes interesting indeed its the first time I've seen a complaint against any of their cabs
Posted by krazykizza over 6 years ago
I sooner see a green cab on the side of the road than a nasty looking no parking zone sign or a half burnt down speed camera.
Posted by otester over 6 years ago
Openreach should stop annoying these people by being persistent, if they don't want it, move to another area.

Not everyone doesn't want it ;-)


I though masts have a single dedicated fibre line?

Seems to be the case for my local mast at least (rural yet provides 2.5Mbps / 1.2Mbps constantly) where houses can only get 0.9Mbps at best..
Posted by otester over 6 years ago
0.9Mbps being the upload
Posted by Dixinormous over 6 years ago
It would strike me that the simple solution to St Albans is to stop rolling out and to ensure a statement informs that it's due to St Albans residents complaining.

Why are BTOR bosses wasting their time meeting this busybody? Quite annoying that people's line rental is paying for people to meet this NIMBY.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
@ planetf1 Totally agree, why they just cant involve the public and local community more i dont know. Wouldnt be that difficult, and could even be benificially to both BT and others business, the community as a whole. Instead though they just want to do as they please and shove their boxes whereever and when ever they see fit. Lets hope this new campaign is constructive and leads to better communication and decisions.
Posted by New_Londoner over 6 years ago
Anyone that has seen the FTTC cabinets in other countries would hesitate before suggesting Openreach change from the current arrangement of pairing a new cabinet with the FTTC kit near to an existing one that has the copper connections to premises.

Moving from this to a new, consolidated cabinet sounds attractive but invariably the combined cabinets that I've seen in Europe appear to be about the size of a small bungalow! Well, perhaps a bit of an exaggeration but they are VERY big.
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 6 years ago
the council in my area are just as bad, traffic cammeras going up everywhere and each once with its own little grey cabinet to house the gubbins
Posted by jrawle over 6 years ago
@loadbang: some of the silly positioning may be explained by the fact that some areas that appear to be pavement are actually private land. People may generally use them as pavement, and may even have right of way, but BT still can't put cabinets there. This is another argument for letting local people have a say, and the chance to offer to allow the cabinet to be built on their property.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
^^^ Im not sure you are right on that, i know of areas which have BT phone poles on private property without the owners permission, i doubt its different for cabinets
Posted by Northwind over 6 years ago
We pedestrians already suffer obstructions such telecoms cabinets, oscillating shop signs, bicycle racks, traffic lights and bollards.

The pavement is NOT intended to be a convenient dumping ground for signage and equipment.

I say: put these cabinets on the road by the kerb. If people in an area want FTTC then they can drive around them. No, I'm not joking!
Posted by loadbang over 6 years ago
@jrawle I had a walk last night, the silly positioning seems to be where the current BT ducting is, instead of building trenches off to the side of the pathways. Usually positioned next to BT/Post Office manhole covers.

I have just seen a planning app posted on lamp posts for a cycle lane to run along the Birmingham New Road in Dudley. The application states the moving of all sign posts and cabs out of the pathway. Looks like BT will have to move their new cabs.
Posted by loadbang over 6 years ago
As for private land. BT have equipment and telegraph poles on our land. They have done since before we moved here. They do pay us money to have it on private land though.
Posted by NetGuy over 6 years ago
I can understand some resident associations being upset (used to live in Brighton area) but if the residents kick up a fuss and object, I'd suggest BT puts it to the council's planning officer / committee that a solution may need to be found in consultation with residents (possibly via their councillor[s]) and leave it on the sidelines for a year or more, allowing the locals to discuss at their own pace, and accept that they won't get FTTC while they are unwilling to find space for new cabinets.

Posted by NetGuy over 6 years ago
It may help concentrate minds, and let's it get decided at local level, while BT can get on with installing in areas where there is less opposition.
Posted by NetGuy over 6 years ago
Sounds (from descriptions of urban area cabinet positioning) as if the side effect of BT etc not needing planning permission has allowed chaos at street level.

Surely any Acts should have been worded to get BT etc to co-operate with councils for some degree of commonsense to prevail... but no!
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
That's all well and good NetGuy but what if the majority don't care where the cabs go they just want fast broadband, the minority spoil it for the majority?
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
quote"I say: put these cabinets on the road by the kerb. If people in an area want FTTC then they can drive around them. No, I'm not joking!"

LOL a new form of traffic calming, please dont tell the government they will think its a superb idea.
Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
My concern with these new boxes is one of vandalism and theft. If the plan is to physically move the broadband equipment to the cabinet, aren't these going to be emptied by local rogues on a regular basis? They don't look very bullet-proof.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
Is there a market for second hand VDSL DLAMS's ? :)
Posted by chrysalis over 6 years ago
I dont get it, whats so bad about street cabinets?
Posted by josiefeind over 6 years ago
comming home to find a cabinet installed in the middle of your garden fence, right in the central view of your window is quite a shock. Even the guys that came to wire it up refused to do so as of its stupid location, given that they dug across from a lay-by where it would not obstruct any view. Im sur eit has devalued my property
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