Brighton Locals Attack BT Over ‘Ugly’ Broadband Cabinets


Conservation groups in Brighton claim that BT’s 1.8 metre high super-fast broadband cabinets are unsightly

The words “broadband” “cabinet” and “controversy” might throw up images of the UK’s coalition government struggling to agree on the best way to fund high-speed infrastructure roll-out amid drastic spending cuts.

While those arguments may well be raging, the controversy in question is actually centered around ugly cabinets of a different kind. Several conservation groups in the sea-side city of Brighton have complained about the size of the cabinets that BT has deployed as part of its ongoing roll-out of high-speed broadband in the area.

Halt Cabinet Roll-out

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According to reports in local paper The Argus, a group made up of several conservation societies have objected to BT Openreach’s choice of broadband street-furniture. The cabinets are approximately 1.8 metres tall and more than 50 are set to be deployed in the city.

The conservation groups claim that they have not been sufficiently consulted on the roll-out of the cabinets and what the deployments halted until a proper discussion can be had.

The cabinets, some of which have already been approved by the local council, are significantly larger than existing cabinets, the groups claim, and in many cases will be in addition to, rather than replacing, the units already in place.

“We are worried both about the lack of more general consultation and the impact that these monster cabinets could have, both within and outside conservation areas, if they are simply installed wherever Openreach finds most convenient,” the conservation groups wrote in an open letter this week.

Responding to the concerns, a spokesperson for BT told The Argus that the new cabinet’s were essential but added that the company “appreciates” the concerns of the conservation groups.

“We are committed to working with local authorities to minimise the visual impact of the new street cabinets, and have done this successfully in other conservation areas,” the BT spokesperson said.

Blocking Pavements

Brighton residents are not the only recipients of BT’s cabinets to express concern. Last year residents of Muswell Hill, the site of  trials of 40 Mbps broadband, complained about the cabinets blocking pavements and being taller than most garden walls.

“I don’t know why they have to be so big and why they can’t bury them underground. If this trial is a success does this mean every street in Britain will have these great big cabinets blocking people’s paths?” John Compton, treasurer of the Muswell Hill and Fortis Green Association told The Times last year.

Last month, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt set out the government’s vision for providing the UK with superfast broadband, but did not reveal anything new about how it would be funded.

“We are now ranked 33rd in the world when it comes to broadband speed, with an average that is nearly 5 times slower than South Korea’s,” said Hunt. “Some of our biggest creative companies – including the world’s largest advertising agency WPP – have chosen to relocate abroad.”

In May BT chief executive Ian Livingston laid out a three year plan for the telecoms company, which included upping previous commitments to invest £1.5 billion in new fibre to around 40 percent of UK homes by 2012. Under its latest plan, BT will now invest around £2.5 billion in rolling out fibre to around two thirds of UK homes by 2015.

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