Friday, September 07, 2012

DCMS: cutting red tape to speed up broadband roll-outs

DCMS today issued a press release announcing new measures to fast-track the roll-out of broadband infrastructure through reducing bureaucracy:
"Under the new plans:
  • broadband street cabinets and other infrastructure can be installed without the need for prior approval from the local council (except in Sites of Special Scientific Interest);
  • broadband companies will face less cost and bureaucracy in laying cables in streets; and
  • broadband cables and cabinets can be installed on or under private land without the bureaucratic burden of long-running negotiations.
The Government will also work with mobile operators, local government and other interested parties to consider ways that the planning process might be streamlined to speed up the deployment of mobile infrastructure. 
We will also facilitate discussions between broadband infrastructure providers, power companies and the regulator Ofgem to develop a national contract for providing broadband infrastructure with a power supply."
This is the first broadband-related announcement from Maria Miller in her new role as Culture Secretary following the recent cabinet reshuffle. Presumably the last point above relates to providing power to street cabinets and masts to support active equipment, which can be particularly challenging in rural and remote areas, as cabinets delivering voice and current DSL broadband services are powered from their serving telephone exchange.

Coverage from the BBC here and ISP Review here; the European Commission consulted earlier this year about ways to reduce broadband costs (more here), covering similar ground. ThinkBroadband coverage included the following, further to an enquiry to DCMS:
"We chased DCMS for an approximate timeline for when the new rules will take effect and consultations are expected to be completed in Spring 2013, with legislation as soon as possible after that. Therefore it is our speculation that the changes will help to accelerate the BDUK project roll-outs, and compensate for time lost during the EU State Aid approval process."
A notable instance of where broadband infrastructure was blocked was in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council, as described by ISP Review and mentioned by ex-Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt in his last speech on broadband. Another example of the objections that can be raised in relation to new cabinets is described by ThinkBroadband here.

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