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Broadband minister's fibre cabinet gripe snub sparks revolt

Not in our backyard leafy historic streets

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City of Westminster councillors are outraged by the new broadband minister's decision to cut red tape and hasten the arrival of on-street fibre-optic cable cabinets.

The bureaucracy-slashing move means telcos can install faster broadband connections without approval from local councils, which can prevent the placing of large green junction boxes outside Brits' front doors.

“We are concerned that the ability of local people to oppose commercial broadband boxes, of which some can be large eyesores, will be diluted by these proposals," said the Tory leader of Westminster City Council Philippa Roe.

"It is more important that councils work in partnership with broadband companies to locate infrastructure sensibly."

Her comments come after the UK government's new Culture Secretary, Maria Miller - who last week replaced Jeremy Hunt - confirmed that Brits would no longer be able to object to the arrival of "ghastly" cabinets outside their homes.

The department for fun's new broom has proposed that, in order to speed the upgrade of the nation's internet infrastructure, local councils' red tape should be sidestepped.

Tory party member Miller has even threatened to either legislate immediately following a consultation on that plan, or else to use existing powers to put an end to locals snapping at BT and other broadband service providers for seeking to plonk their fibre optic cabinets on residential streets.

"I would question why the government’s approach is needed at all - it will only result in a gradual and prolonged development across the UK rather than the big bang in broadband that the UK needs," sniffed Roe, whose ward is the wealthy patch of Knightsbridge and Belgravia.

She added that the City of Westminster is able to offer businesses, residents and tourists a decent broadband connection via various means including O2's "free" Wi-Fi zones in parts of the West End, biz projects such as Sohonet for the film industry and Hub Westminster for startups.

Meanwhile, the Local Government Association is equally unimpressed by Miller effectively declaring war on NIMBYs upset about the "ugly" cabinets.

It said:

The government's proposals take the right away from people to have a say over six-foot high junction boxes outside their windows and gardens or poles and wires festooning their streets. Decisions on where to place broadband infrastructure must consider the impact on local environments rather than simply suit the convenience of companies and their engineers. Rushed and unnecessary roadworks to lay cables also risk costing council tax payers a fortune in repairs and, even when done properly, shorten the life of the roads.

Residents expect councils to protect their homes and make neighbourhoods nice places to live, and planning regulations exist to do just that. The drive to meet broadband targets shouldn't force poorly thought out knee-jerk measures that spoil local environments and needlessly damage roads. Government needs to encourage providers to work together to make better use of existing ducts and poles, rather than duplicating infrastructure.

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