Government removes red tape from broadband infrastructure roll-outs
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Restrictions on the deployment of overhead broadband lines are to be relaxed, so that planning permission is no longer needed.
- 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.