UK Government urges more telecoms infrastructure sharing

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The UK government is urging telecoms companies to prioritise sharing existing infrastructure like telegraph poles before installing new ones for broadband deployment. 

In a letter to the telecoms industry, Julia Lopez, the Minister of State for Data and Digital Infrastructure, cited increasing public concerns around the “duplication of overhead fibre networks” across the country.

Lopez said MPs have relayed constituents’ frustrations about feeling they have no control over how infrastructure is deployed in their local areas, which can “negatively affect the overall perception of full fibre deployment.”

While the issue is most prominent in some parts of England, the government has received complaints from residents nationwide.

The minister called on providers to “explore the possibility of sharing existing infrastructure and underground network deployment before making the decision to use telegraph poles.”

Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, has already implemented measures to facilitate infrastructure sharing. This includes a ‘Duct and Poles Access’ remedy requiring Openreach to open up its ducts and poles to rivals on regulated terms.

However, Lopez believes more can be done, stating: “New telegraph poles should only be [used] in cases where installing lines underground is not reasonably practicable.”

She added that appropriate community engagement must take place, and new infrastructure shouldn’t obstruct traffic or impact local areas’ visual amenity.

The government hopes sharing existing infrastructure where possible, engaging with communities, and carefully considering new installations’ placement will help achieve its connectivity goals “whilst maintaining widespread public support.”

To that end, Lopez has asked officials to revise the existing Cabinet Siting and Pole Siting Code of Practice to develop “refreshed guidelines” that ensure communities feel engaged while still allowing efficient broadband deployments.

The new guidelines will likely fall under the Electronic Communications Code, making them enforceable against providers.

Officials will engage with telecoms companies “in due course” regarding the revisions. Lopez expressed her “gratitude for the work” providers are doing and reiterated her belief that infrastructure sharing “will be key in ensuring that this work can progress at the necessary pace and with the strong backing of communities.”

(Photo by Rory Tucker on Unsplash)

See also: Nations demand tech firms tackle scammers

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