BT kills broadband roll-out in London borough

Kensington and Chelsea turn down the offer of fibre broadband to keep its ‘historic streetscapes’ intact

BT is scrapping plans to provide fibre broadband in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea after the local council complained about cabinets “ruining [its] historic streetscape.”

The telecoms firm was set to build 108 fibre cabinets across the area, which in turn would provide broadband connections to over 34,000 homes and businesses.

However, the large cabinets necessary for Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) connections were considered an eyesore by the council and its residents, resulting in 96 of its installation applications being turned down.

Kensington and Chelsea council complained the company had not worked with it to come up with a solution and “would not compromise on the number, or on the design.”

A statement from the authority said it would not affect residents or local business as the borough was mostly covered by BT’s largest rival.

“We regret that BT are not proceeding with superfast broadband in [Kensington and Chelsea] but virtually the whole borough is already covered by superfast broadband with Virgin, who obviously appreciate the very valuable market the borough represents,” it said.

“Virgin [has] 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.”

BT took a different view, believing residents and companies would lose out.

“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,” said a spokesman from BT.

“We will… 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.”

The CEO of business association and partner of BT London First, Baroness Jo Valentine, added her condemnation for companies based in the area.

"London business needs world class communications infrastructure and delaying broadband rollout in Kensington and Chelsea is bad news for local businesses and residents,” she said.

“BT is able to work with other boroughs with conservation areas – Kensington and Chelsea need to up their game."

However, this is not the first time BT has had a run in with a London council when it comes to its updated cabinets – which measure a significant 1.3m in height.

In December 2009, it was forced to move boxes it installed in Muswell Hill – a leafy suburb of the London borough of Haringey – after failing to seek planning permission before deploying them.

However, rather than scrapping the boxes altogether, BT moved them to what were deemed as more suitable locations by the council and residents to ensure they could still access the faster broadband speeds.

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