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New UK culture secretary takes an axe to broadband red tape

Maria Miller, the freshly annointed head of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, wants to put an end to the red tape that blocks the progress of super-fast broadband rollout.
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

New British broadband minister Maria Miller wants to cut through the planning formalities faced by companies building broadband infrastructure, to drive the progress of super-fast services.

Maria Miller

Miller, who replaced previous Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Wednesday, said that the rollout of super-fast broadband is being held up by "unnecessary bureaucracy in the planning system".

Wasting no time, Miller said on Friday she plans to sweep that red tape aside in order to expedite the building of broadband infrastructure that can live up to the UK's aim of having the fastest services in Europe.

"Super-fast 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," Miller said in a statement.

To do this, the minister said the government will either use existing powers or introduce legislation to make sure planning formalities are eased within five years.

Under the new plan, companies will be able to install broadband cabinets and other infrastructure without prior approval from a local council. This would effectively avoid the situation seen in Kensington and Chelsea earlier in May, when BT had to abandon its plans to put 108 fibre cabinets in the London borough because the council said they were too ugly for its historic streetscape.

Additionally, companies will be able to put broadband cables and cabinets under or on private land "without the bureaucratic burden of long-running negotiations", Miller said, adding that broadband providers will also face fewer barriers to laying cables in streets.

Digital Agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes said in April that the European Commission was looking into ways that it could cut out the "stupid costs and duplication" in engineering works for broadband infrastructure. Kroes said that as much as 80 percent of the cost of super-fast broadband rollout is spent on civil engineering works.

To a similar end, Miller said that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will set up discussions between infrastructure providers, power companies and the regulator Ofgem. These will come up with a national contract for providing essential broadband infrastructure with power supply, thereby saving money and time in road works.

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