Posted: Fri 15th Mar 2024

UK Government calls on telecoms firms to limit installation of telegraph poles

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

The Data and Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez has called on telecoms companies to curb the installation of new telegraph poles, as the rollout of faster and more reliable broadband across the country continues.

In a public letter to network operators – including Virgin Media O2, Openreach, and KCOM – Minister Lopez has asked that companies do ‘everything possible’ to share existing telegraph poles before deciding to build new ones.

Companies failing to comply with the regulations can lead Ofcom to investigate and take enforcement action on the operator.

While telegraph poles are crucial to bring faster and cheaper connectivity to people across the UK, the minister has advised new infrastructure should only be built above ground when sharing existing infrastructure or installing lines underground is not viable.

In her letter, she warns operators that new telegraph poles should only be installed after ensuring appropriate community engagement has taken place and that the siting of new infrastructure will not cause obstructions to traffic or unduly impact the visual amenity of the local area.

Already network operators are required to share apparatus where they are able to do so; and new measures were brought in to make it easier for them to upgrade and share use of existing underground ducts and telegraph poles.

The call comes after residents and MPs alike have voiced concerns about the duplication of overhead networks, and follows the minister writing to the Ofcom CEO this week.

In the letter, she requested the regulator to provide guidance to local planning authorities on how to raise complaints, as well as asking for Ofcom’s support in tackling the challenge.

Last week the minister also invited MPs to discuss the issue at a roundtable and encourage greater community engagement.

This Government recently announced more than one million homes, businesses and public buildings can now access the best internet speeds on the market as a result of the UK government’s rollout of faster, more reliable broadband – showing its plan to connect hard-to-reach communities is working.

Data and Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez said:

“Telegraph poles are a key piece of infrastructure bringing faster connectivity to communities and businesses across the country.

“Most telecoms companies are doing a fantastic job in delivering that connectivity with the support of those communities, by sharing existing infrastructure and taking into account surroundings when putting up new poles.

“But we know that there are some firms that are losing that vital community support by inappropriately or unnecessarily throwing up new infrastructure.

“I have today written to operators asking them to do whatever it takes to share existing infrastructure. We have already made a number of changes to the law to make it easier for them to do so – including allowing operators to fly lines from poles owned by other providers and sharing underground ducts. We reserve the right to take further action if things do not improve and will be discussing next steps with Ofcom.”

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