The Government has said it is tightening up the complaints process covering the installation of broadband poles in the face of strong opposition from local people.
It comes after Beverley and Holderness MP Graham Stuart hosted Hedon campaigners in Parliament on November 8, where he said he was left in no doubt that the “ugly” and often unnecessary poles were causing significant problems for the town, and that the proliferation of poles could be repeated across the country.
Sir John Whittingdale MP, minister for data and digital infrastructure, has assured Mr Stuart that the Government is listening to the residents’ concerns.
He stated that the Government would be introducing measures to “incentivise collaborative and constructive relationships between operators and site providers, and ensure individuals have a clear route through which to make their concerns known to operators”.
This repeats Mr Stuart’s assertion that companies should “play nice” and share infrastructure wherever possible to keep the ugly poles to a minimum.
This is the first time that the Government has stated that it is working on the problem, which has arisen as a result of KCOM not being compelled to share infrastructure with comparable pricing and ease to BT’s Openreach.
Mr Stuart called on the Government to open up Openreach in 2016 to provide fair prices for broadband. Sir John has stated that Ofcom is working with KCOM to facilitate new entrants’ use of its network.
This will ensure that it is easier for companies to share infrastructure, therefore avoiding unnecessary duplication of telegraph poles, and make it easier for local people to complain if they do not follow these rules.
The Government has also written to local planning authorities to encourage them to inform Ofcom if any companies are not adhering to its obligations.
Mr Stuart said he remained in regular contact with East Riding Council on the issue and that the authority was doing its part to ensure people across Beverley and Holderness received fast and cheaper broadband in a way that protects their community.
This is the latest in a series of steps Mr Stuart has taken to ensure the concerns of local people are heard at all levels, which include arranging a meeting between campaigners, MS3, and East Riding councillors; writing to Ofcom to request a market review of broadband in Hull and the East Riding; encouraging MS3 to not go into the Conservation Area in Hedon at all; encouraging new entrants to seek a pole or duct sharing agreement where possible and requesting that the council delay permits while discussions continue.
Mr Stuart said: “We don’t want ugly and unnecessary poles in Hedon. The proper place for broadband infrastructure is underground wherever possible, as it clearly should have been in Hedon.
“So I’m delighted the Government is taking this seriously, and I’m grateful to the campaigners who have raised this at the highest level. Their tenacity has been the best of East Yorkshire.”