16 June 2024

Campaign launched to block broadband poles

by Ray Duffill and Rebecca Hannant

A campaign has been launched in Hedon to stop the installation of hundreds of “obstructive” telegraph poles by MS3 Networks.

The Hessle-based company, which is a wholesale operator that builds, owns and sells its broadband network services to consumer providers, has secured funding to roll out a new fibre-based broadband network to more than 500,000 homes and businesses across Hull and the surrounding areas.

As part of its plans to provide more services, the company placed planning notices across Hedon and South Preston alerting residents to the imminent installation of telegraph poles across the area. According to Hedon town councillor Steve Gallant, the company does not need planning permission because of a change in the law in 2021 that classes telegraph poles as “permitted development”.

On Thursday, representatives from MS3 visited Hedon Town Council to discuss its plans for 500 telegraph poles across the area. While the meeting was taking place, more than 300 residents of Hedon and Preston South staged a protest outside Hedon Town Hall.

Two petitions have been launched in response to the installation. Jane Johnson, a resident of Preston South, who set up the initial petition against the MS3 poles on Change.org, said: “I was so pleased that so many residents turned out to protest and that this shows just how strong the feeling is about not having these awful poles put all over our lovely streets.

“Unfortunately, in the meeting, MS3 Networks continued not to listen to what residents wanted and refused to change their approach. They are still intent on erecting at least 500 poles throughout Hedon and Preston.

“They said that Hedon Town Council had been given ‘misinformation’ last year when they said that poles would not be erected.”

However, MS3 insisted it was “keen to work with local residents to help them understand the benefits of both pole and underground infrastructure” and how would offer “affordable, faster, fairer broadband to communities”.

It said it had a “comprehensive community engagement strategy” and was always open to dialogue with residents and local councils. It acknowledged that underground cabling had been initially discussed, but now argues that telegraph poles are the “most effective” way to build the network.

Mrs Johnson is continuing to urge people to sign the petition, and is also recommending that people sign and share a Parliament.uk petition – at petition.parliament.uk/petitions/635960 – which calls for legislation changes to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary telecoms infrastructure on the streets.

Following the protest, a public meeting was held on Saturday, September 9, with more than 50 people present.

At the meeting, concerns were raised about the widespread installation of the poles with one person explaining that one had been earmarked to be in a resident’s driveway.

Councillor Steve Gallant, who chaired the meeting, said current legislation had permitted the use of poles.

He said: “It appears that the law is on the side of MS3. They don’t seem to be prepared to compromise as they know the changed legislation allows them to ride roughshod over public opinion.”

However, despite the seemingly difficult legal obstacles, plans have begun to be made to oppose the deployment. Ward councillors present were asked to investigate the planning laws to see what might be done.

A petition on the Parliament UK website, which has been started by residents in Hessle who face similar issues, urges the Government to think again about such permitted development.

On reaching 10,000 signatures, it would trigger a Government response. The idea of a public boycott gained support among people at the Hedon meeting.

This would target MS3 and its internet service providers that were prepared to use telegraph poles. Some residents declared that they would obstruct poles being installed outside their homes, even if it led to them personally falling foul of the law.

Finally, an action group that was formed to help coordinate a public campaign held its first meeting on Monday night.

Save our Streets – Going Underground calls for a boycott of MS3 Networks and any ISPs who intend to put up poles.

It is asking residents to sign a pledge that reads: “This household pledges not to use services, delivered by MS3 Networks, via new telegraph poles. Should poles be deployed, this boycott of MS3 Networks and internet service providers (ISPs) that choose to use telegraph poles, shall remain active for 10 years from this date and will not be reviewed until October 2033.”

Tony Jopling, chief operating officer at MS3 Networks, said in a statement: “MS3’s mission is to overcome the challenges local people have endured for decades due to a lack of choice of broadband provider. Our team is keen to work with local residents to help them understand the benefits of both pole and underground infrastructure and how it enables MS3 to offer affordable, faster, fairer broadband to communities.

“MS3 Networks completes all building work in line with the Electronic Communications Code, Schedule 3A Communications Act 2003 and the voluntary Code of Practice: Cabinet Siting and Pole Siting Code of Practice. This sets out that MS3 is legally permitted to install new infrastructure both above and below ground, providing notice is given.

“We appreciate that in the case of Hedon, there was some initial discourse during which the team discussed laying cables underground. However, we have carefully considered the most effective way to build our network across Hedon and will now be using telegraph poles to deploy the network. This will allow us to quickly ensure local residents and business have access to cost savings and choice of broadband provider.

“MS3 has a comprehensive community engagement strategy to ensure the benefits of pole deployment are understood, and so residents can learn more about the work we’re doing ahead of its commencement. In addition, we have built relationships with local councils and are in frequent contact with councillors to update them on our build strategy and make them aware of the work we are planning. Our aim is always to create a dialogue between the team at MS3 and the local community, and we are more than happy to answer any questions local people have.

“We acknowledge that broadband infrastructure in Hull and its surrounding areas is extremely unique, and this comes with its own set of challenges. Residents should be assured that MS3 has robust process for pole deployment and works closely with local councils, which are heavily involved in the network deployment process when determining the build strategy in each area.”