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Government removes red tape from broadband infrastructure roll-outs
Friday 07 September 2012 12:31:08 by Andrew Ferguson

Today sees the first broadband related announcement with Maria Miller as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. The announcement from DCMS details planning law changes that should improve the chances for the UK to actually have the Fastest Broadband in Europe by 2015.

"Superfast broadband is vital to secure our country’s future – to kick start economic growth and create jobs. We are putting in the essential infrastructure that will make UK businesses competitive, and sweeping away the red tape that is a barrier to economic recovery.

The Government means business and we are determined to cut through the bureaucracy that is holding us back."

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Maria Miller

The main changes are:

  1. Broadband providers will be able to install broadband street cabinets in any location (apart from in areas designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest) without prior approval from councils, and local authorities cannot impose conditions on the construction or design apart from in exceptional circumstances.
  2. Way leave negotiations for locating broadband fibre and other broadband infrastructure on private land will be curtailed, so that negotiations do not become costly and time consuming.
  3. Restrictions on the deployment of overhead broadband lines are to be relaxed, so that planning permission is no longer needed.
  4. A new deal will be negotiated so that broadband infrastructure roll-out is not unduly hindered by traffic regulations.

We should point out that operators with Code Powers from Ofcom are already able to install without local council approval in areas that are not conservation areas, these rule changes remove that hurdle. Though how popular this will be with residents is unclear, and has the potential to result in lengthy legal battles after cabinets and other infrastructure has been installed.

UPDATE: 2:15pm: We chased DCMS for an approximate timeline for when the new rules will take effect and consultations are expected to be completed in Spring 2013, with legislation as soon as possible after that. Therefore it is our speculation that the changes will help to accelerate the BDUK project roll-outs, and compensate for time lost during the EU State Aid approval process.

Reducing the cost to operators such as Openreach, C&W, Geo, Virgin Media and all the other fibre network operators for negotiating wayleaves will be welcomed by them, but we hope that adequate safeguards remain in place so that reasonable objections will be heard.

While we welcome today's news, we feel it is something that should have been announced two years ago, as it has the potential to radically alter the plans that firms who had originally lined themselves up for BDUK/local authority projects. More flexibility and lower cost deployment could have resulted in councils having the choice from three or four potential bidders, and where the Fujitsu largely FTTP option is often seen as un-tested, they may have been able to carry out a much larger trial. As things stand, the obvious benefit from today's news is Openreach, and the lawyers who will be representing residents lodging complains about cabinets shortly to appear in Conservation areas.

The alternate network operators have frequently complained about the issue of the fibre tax, and maybe the Government has plans to revamp that, but at the start of 2012, there was no sign that the tax would vanish. Removing the cost of around £18/20 per home connected to a live fibre network, might encourage more venture capital investment into alternate networks, to challenge the duo-oply in the cities, and push competition deeper into the rural heartlands.


Posted by Saurus over 5 years ago
Have to laugh at statements like that from any politician, as its them that created all the bureaucracy in the first place!
Posted by LT38 over 5 years ago
so does that mean Virgin media will no longer be able to use the "WE NEED PLANNING PERMISSION" excuses they have been using for the last few years in order to delay fixing the shocking service they provide across the uk
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
@LT38 very possibly. but they have not needed planning permission unless area was a Conservation area anyway
Posted by camieabz over 5 years ago
"consultations are expected to be completed in Spring 2013, with legislation as soon as possible after that."

So Autumn 2013 is the realistic beginning time, which leaves 18 months for work (the government will want Election 2015 results).
Posted by pingtest2 over 5 years ago
>broadband infrastructure on private land

What does that mean, they can put cabinets in my garden? No thank you!
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
@pingtest2 Until the legislation if fleshed out fully hard to say.

What it means I believe is if they approach you to use your land, the process of deciding yes/no and how much you get paid will be much shorter. In short make obtaining wayleaves quicker.
Posted by LT38 over 5 years ago
just goes to show how much they lie then as im not in a conservo area and yet they keep telling me planning permission has been refused
Posted by Colin_London over 5 years ago
@andrew - not sure that is true. The consultants for Openreach send in a letter to the council asking if a location requires approval. Until now the council could use various constraints such as 'Landscape Character Area' to refuse, not just official conservation areas. I think the Government wants to limit the constraint to 'Sites of Special Scientific Interest', which is really going to rile National Parks, the National Trust etc.
Posted by leexgx over 5 years ago
this should help installs to get done faster and the One off person (who happens to be on the local council or parish) that does not care about the internet can get mostly ignored hopefully, (as long as BT are not to mad where they place the cabs should be ok)
Posted by nedkelly97 over 5 years ago
This is a step in the right direction but the money from the BDUK seems to be only going to Bt.This needs to be changed so others can use the money to build a network that dont open up there network to others .
Posted by timmay over 5 years ago
I'm not to sure if this is a good thing. If BT can deploy a cabinet where I live then FTTH is not going to happen. Still hopefully this will mean me and 400 other residents can get something better than 12~14Mbps.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
It should be pointed out that the planning changes are NOT just about cabinets.

Planning would be needed for new pavement chambers in conservation areas, so this may help with FTTP roll-outs.

For other providers, the changes will help reduce costs, particularly in areas where overhead deployment is a lot cheaper than ducting.

Plus the changes also apply to mobile masts - though can imagine that being the contentious part of the legislation
Posted by michaels_perry over 5 years ago
It is essential that Highways be asked for approval to ensure cabinets don't obstruct the view at corners, etc. We already have examples of such siting and it is right that the sole interest of the installer be balanced against road safety, etc.
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