BT kills off Chelsea fibre in clash over ugly cabinets

BT kills off Chelsea fibre in clash over ugly cabinets

Summary: BT has halted its super-fast broadband deployment in Kensington and Chelsea after the council deemed the necessary cabinets weren't in keeping with the look of the area

TOPICS: Broadband

While BT continues to add new exchanges to its fibre broadband footprint, there's one area of the country that won't be joining the super-fast rollout any time soon: Kensington and Chelsea.

Fibre cabinet

BT has halted its super-fast broadband deployment in Kensington and Chelsea after the council deemed the necessary cabinets weren't in keeping with the look of the area. Image credit: David Meyer/ZDNet

BT had originally planned to install 108 fibre cabinets in the borough, covering 24,000 homes and businesses, but has now abandoned the plans after Kensington and Chelsea Council refused or shelved 96 of BT's planning applications for the cabinets.

"The council said the cabinets weren't in keeping with the historic streetscape. Now they can have the historic broadband to match," a BT spokesman said.

The cabinets were not considered to be in keeping with Kensington and Chelsea's planning principles, it said.

According to BT, the company and the council have had "literally dozens of meetings and calls over many months" to try to resolve the issues. The council proposed moving the cabinets underground, which BT refused in case of flooding. Officials then suggested making the cabinets smaller, which BT rejected on the grounds it would render the rollout uneconomical.

According to Kensington and Chelsea Council, all developers, including utilities need to make sure that the local environment is protected.

The council said the cabinets weren't in keeping with the historic streetscape. Now they can have the historic broadband to match.

– BT

"BT was seeking permission for 108 cabinets, many of them in sensitive locations. It would not compromise on the number, or on the design. It would not use sites that already had unused BT equipment and it would not consider putting the equipment underground or any other method," it said in a statement.

Having reached an impasse, BT has now put a stop to its fibre deployment in the borough, saying it had "no option but to send our engineers to other areas that are more welcoming".

The council now hopes that other telcos will step in to fill the fibre gap. "We regret that BT are not proceeding with super-fast broadband in the Royal Borough but we expect other providers will want to offer super-fast broadband to our residents, in a very valuable market, without ruining our historic streetscape," it said.

BT's wholesale fibre service is now available to 10 million households and businesses in the UK.

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Topic: Broadband

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  • At first glance this makes BT look obstinate and unhelpful, but readers not familiar with the hard realities may not realise the real practical difficulties Ken & Chelsea are creating.
    The new cabinets are located next to the old ones for a very good reason. The fibre-optic supply may be new and the electronic content of the cabinet new, but the local network - the wires that then link to the Distribution Points and eventually each of the premises - are the famous old 'copper' network put there originally for the plain old telephone network.
    Hopefully, concerned residents will pressurise the Council to 'get real' and stop being so daft. If the Council thinks that another company will want to come in and do the work to the standard they want, then they had better ask the price before telling their residents what a great deal they have done for them.
  • This idea that it costs more to be environmentally sensitive is really not credible. Even if it did cost a little bit more, BT profits can well stand it. They are the one's taking the profits for this installation for decades to come. BT have a history of ignoring traditional values such as there removal of our beautiful red phone boxes from many locations and replacement with a boring box of glass. Only an outcry from the general public eventually put the brakes on that, but not till damage was already done in many places. Cost and rebranding was given as the excuse. And now they think they can hold an entire community in London to ransom just to get their way. We didn't elect BT executives, and the council who we did elect are doing their job properly.
  • Ridiculous. It's just a nondescript green box that's mostly out of the way. I guess they'll want their telegraph poles and street lighting pulled up too and replaced with something more fitting. And guys, while you're at it do something about those horrible electric cables, satellite dishes, tv aerials, road markings and all that disgusting gravel.

    If they don't want the roll out now, then Allesley Green, Coventry will take what they don't want. In the meantime they can cough up the extra for the super design they require.
  • More bureaucratic arse-scratching. It's past time to revamp the whole political system. Restore the Monarchy!
  • you make the cabinets smaller, you need more cabinets, you put them underground then every time someone wants one you have to cause massive blockages of where they are, flooding is more likely, jobs will take longer (and in that sense, cost more), its up to you, but i have a box right opposit my house and in no way does it ruin my street, the lamposts do so more. oh and theyre not really holding the community to ransom, just moving their engineers on to areas that want fibre optic, which is fair game, many places do want it and are very happy to have the cabs, so its up to the residents there, though, like someone else said, shouldnt they be ripping up the streetlights first?
  • Flippin councils. They're becoming more and more daft. The problem is the people they employ in their planning departments, they really are a bunch of morons who need a good slapping. But with the government giving them more and more powers and the people less freedom - it wont be long before the people rise up against them.

    The worst thing about these planning departments is that the actual elected councillers can't even influence their own departments with common-sense! Like someone said earlier above, bureaucratic nonsense.

    People need to take control of their country before these bubble-world idiots turn us into a prison stuck in the dark-ages.

    BT, heres hoping you start rolling out to all the rural areas soon too!!!
  • Fine, if the council want to be like that, then BT can take their broadband to the hundreds of other communities, some of those are just as wealth as Kensington and Chelsea. An I suspect given all of the hassle BT as other Telecom will run away from the area as well.

    Love BT statement.
  • They won't put cabs in rural areas Citizen Kane. Cabs are just for urban locations. Many rural areas haven't a cab they can connect to. Be careful what you wish for, infinity is a stop gap solution.
  • I think the council was right. Cabinets are so yesterday, and just prolong the life of the old phone network. Virgin is probably providing a better service in the area anyway. Also there are new companies springing up who will do proper fibre to the home, making the area much nicer as all the old phone lines can go and the poles, and all the satellite dishes too. With a proper fibre network you don't need any of that old rubbish.
  • Fibre to the home will arrive as quick as the cows I think. I'm sure the providers are tripping over themselves to stump up the cash to invest in the new infrastructure for that. While you wait for that I'll happily take the stop gap thanks. Oh and wireless power will be just around the corner too, so you might as well start ripping out your leccy sockets now... and flying cars so you can dig up your roads too.
  • @ lewiswalch They are the one's taking the profits for this installation for decades to come[...]

    Or, investing their own money, to build open an open network from which you'll eventually have the competitive choice of ISPs to buy from. Any other infrastructure provider doing this? Virgin? Anyone?
  • The councils are soooo out of touch and only represent a portion of their local people.

    What about all the gamers, people that cant get out and rely on high bandwidth internet, streaming movies, tv and other high bandwidth uses.

    Do you really think the other companies will want to deal with a local council that is so difficult, its just not worth the effort. I dont understand why BT even discussed it this long with them to be honest.

    Its good that BT make a stand they have a standard product for a great price for the consumer, there is no need to change anything for just one or two councils, they are not special or different to every other council it only alienates themselves and smacks of elitism. If they don't like it then that's fine, don't provide a service.

    I just hope the council are really speaking on behalf of their resident and not just in their own interests, did they have any consultation with all age ranges of residents ?

    I guess they will be getting all flustered about 4G phone masts next.
    See you in Azeroth err actually no I wont, because your pipe is not fast enough :)
  • Virgin also has cabinets, I have one outside my house, and have been trying to get rid of it for the past 5 years.
  • To be fair, I've just seen this...
  • It would actually be simple to do away with the cabinets: WiMax could easily cover the whole area. However, UK gov isn't interested in supporting WiMAX. It's much more profitable for the phone companies to sell people very expensive LTE.

    Virgin could cover the area by digging up the pavements and installing its own cabinets: I assume it has done this already. Virgin only supports areas where there are lots of well-off people and K&C qualifies.

    Hyperoptic cherry-picks customers that are even richer than Virgin's by installing fibre to blocks of flats, multi-occupancy business buildings and so on.

    This is perfectly fine. There is no regulation that means a single company can sell a service to rich people and use the profits to supply poorer people, which is basically how BT's landline network was created. With broadband, anyone can exploit the rich while leaving poor areas with no cable TV or broadband at all.
    Jack Schofield
  • The council responds, NICE one:
  • They didn't complain about the old cabinets which aren't that much smaller than the new ones, though I imagine BT wouldn't have much of a problem repainting them a less brightly garish green colour (though it should fade with age). However, guess what colour and size virgin's cabinets are?

    I understand where Chelsea is coming from though - its not necessarily the size of the BT boxes, but the fact that you get 2 or 3 or 4 boxes all stuck together - if Virgin did put a box in, it'd end up sat right next to a BT one, they don't share. This could be better managed, or BT Openreach could just be subcontracted by Virgin (et al) to house their kit. Maybe BT could consolidate the the old cabinets into the new ones too, but I guess they'd have to be even bigger then.

    If you want a dedicated fibre to your home from hyperoptic, I think you'll need to be stinking rich - there aren't that many flatblocks in historic Chelsea you know.