BT Infinity Abandons Kensington And Chelsea Over Ugly Cabinets

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BT withdraws from London borough after it objects to street cabinets

BT has confirmed that it has abandoned its plans to bring fibre broadband to Kensington and Chelsea after the London Borough objected to the installation of cabinets in its “historic streetscapes”.

The council said that BT had refused to compromise on the design and number of the cabinets, but BT has hit back, saying that 34,200 premises will be affected by its withdrawal.

London calling

btfibrecabinet - Azzin on AVForums“We can confirm we have ceased deployment of fibre broadband in Kensington and Chelsea. This is unfortunate but we were left with no option after having the vast majority of our applications rejected by the council,” said BT in a statement. “Other councils, including those of neighbouring boroughs, have shown a greater eagerness to enjoy the benefits of fibre broadband. We will therefore re-focus our engineers’ efforts in other areas where planning authorities have taken a positive approach and are keen to ensure their residents and businesses can benefit from this technology.”

Kensington and Chelsea rejected BT’s applications on the grounds that it had not worked with it to ensure that its environment was protected, including its streets and listed buildings.

“BT was seeking permission for 108 cabinets, many of them in sensitive locations. It would not compromise on the number, or on the design,” said the council. ““It would not use sites that already had unused BT equipment and it would not consider putting the equipment underground or any other method.”

Historic speeds

“We regret that BT are not proceeding with superfast broadband in the Royal Borough but virtually the whole borough is already covered by superfast broadband with Virgin, who obviously appreciate the very valuable market the borough represents,” it added. “Virgin have been able to do this without ruining our historic streetscape. They will also consider extending to the few streets they do not already cover in the borough if demand is there.”

However BT has dismissed these claims, adding that they proved not to be a problem in the other London Boroughs it had deployed fibre.

“Whilst I’m sure the residents of Kensington and Chelsea appreciate the historic streetscape, we don’t believe this should have to mean that homes and businesses in the borough have to put up with historic broadband speeds,” a BT spokesperson told TechWeekEurope. “We have installed more than 4,000 fibre cabinets across London, including borough’s like Greenwich – a world heritage site. We have successfully worked with 31 London Boroughs to provide fibre broadband speeds to their residents whilst minimising the visual impact of the necessary infrastructure. However, this does require co-operation on both sides.”

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Steve McCaskill is deputy editor of TechWeekEurope and joined as a reporter in 2011 having previously written for Steel Media. He covers telecommunications, networking, public sector IT, along with sports technology.

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  1. BT will sell you 20 Megabits but it can only deliver you 5-6 Megabits (with blessings from OfCom). How about we sue them (both) for that consumer crime?

  2. Kensington is not the only place they have abandoned. They have also given up on the centre of Warwick as they cannot get planning permission for the cabinets.

  3. I’m on the side of RBK&C on this one. First, the cabinets ARE hideous! I live in the Borough and it seems to me to be a small price to pay if someone could have simply come up with something a little more attractive – there seems to be some underlying assumption that either residents are careless of their environment or that technical installations are by rights exempted from any need to demonstrate design flair and initiative.

  4. I have seen lots of places where cables mysteriously sprout up from cracks between the kerb-stones. They also sprout up from the road gutters and run across what I call mini-pavements. Vehicles have damaged these cables and one does have to wonder whether the consumers are getting what they paid for. In the good old days Post Office Telephones used to lay nine way pipe-stacks. These would have nine pipes each about three inches in diameter. Presumably some of these pipes are now redundant. Could some clever person work out how much data could be sent through such a pipe-stack if fibre was used instead of old paper insulated cables?

  5. Funny the UK has bright post-office red telephone and mail boxes dotted all over the country. When the telephone came in was there the same level of protest at what is a real eyesore compared to these cabinets. The British telephone box brought connectivity with voice to millions of citizens in the last century. The internet promises to increase this benefit greatly. Yet it would seem a few people and planners just don’t get it! if there is a problem with these boxes, why not use the old telephone box format and be done with it. Probably no one would even notice!