by Ray Duffill and Rebecca Hannant
Residents across Hedon and Preston South are continuing to fight plans for hundreds of telegraph poles which are set to be installed across the area from next week.
A campaign group, Hedon Says No to MS3 Telegraph Poles, has been set up to oppose the installation of 500 poles outside homes and businesses.
Hessle-based communications company MS3 Networks says it is trying to improve the broadband infrastructure in the Humber region by offering high-quality, low-cost fibre while challenging local competitors.
An independent report commissioned by MS3 and conducted by PMP Strategy demonstrated the challenges and opportunities of access to full-fibre broadband across the region.
According to the report, KCOM’s prices remain among the highest in the UK with customers paying an average of £200 extra for high-quality broadband compared with the rest of the UK. MS3 claims its installation would challenge this while also benefiting the local economy, with more than 370 jobs being made available. It also pledged to work with local residents to ensure they benefit.
Tony Jopling, chief operating officer at MS3 Networks, said: “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 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.”
Despite MS3 claiming that its poles would eliminate KCOM’s effective monopoly, local residents have questioned the number of poles set to be installed in the area, as well as why the cabling cannot be put underground.
Residents also claim that some of Hedon’s paths are too narrow for the poles to be placed while maintaining full pedestrian access.
It had been previously proposed to Hedon Town Council that the company would build an infrastructure of underground cables, but those plans were later scrapped.
Mr Jopling added: “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 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.”
According to Hedon residents, MS3 claimed at a meeting that it was unable to use existing underground cabling as KCOM charged too much. However, KCOM has denied any correspondence with MS3.
A KCOM spokesman said: “We are legally required to provide access to our network and process applications to use our network quickly and thoroughly when we receive them, and they’re submitted correctly with all the required information. Unfortunately, other providers don’t follow the agreed application process through or simply don’t apply in the first place. They then erroneously blame KCOM for the inconvenience they are causing.
“We have received no requests from any other provider for access to our infrastructure in Hedon or Hessle.
“Where new providers are installing poles it’s entirely their own commercial choice and not because they have not been able to gain access to our infrastructure. We sympathise with residents who are having unpopular poles installed in their streets but unfortunately that’s the decision of other providers and theirs alone. Other providers could do as KCOM has done and invest millions into building their own underground network but have chosen not to do so.”
Hedon and Preston South residents have launched two petitions against the poles. The one on the official Government website – petition.parliament.uk/petitions/635960 – had received more than 4,500 signatures at the time of going to press.
A form has also been issued, asking residents to boycott any services offered by MS3 for 10 years if the poles installation goes ahead.
South West Holderness councillor Steve Gallant said: “We have also started signing up residents to a boycott pledge not to use any internet supplier using poles. I’ve got them coming in thick and fast now. Our target is to get 1,000 to hand over to MS3. This would be about a third of the households in Hedon.
“With large banners going up around the town this week, and some 500 window posters, the strength of feeling about this issue will be very apparent in the town.”
Completed copies can be returned to Jane at Hedon Town Council, Preston Parish Council, or to Cllr Gallant at The Old Vicarage, Ivy Lane, Hedon.
The members of the campaign group have also contacted MP Graham Stuart for help.
Mr Stuart said: “We all deserve access to fast, reasonably priced broadband – and competition among broadband providers is the best way to achieve that.
“But it’s not right for telegraph poles to go up in places that are wrong for a local community – be it a private road, a front garden, or a conservation area.
“That’s why I’m working with parish and town councils to make sure that broadband poles are erected with the support of local communities, in places where they don’t disrupt people’s right to a quiet and peaceful life.”
Meanwhile, the poles are expected to be installed from September 27.
According to the map on the front page, the red dots detail poles that will be powered, while the blue ones will not.