back to article New broadband minister snubs 'ugly' fibre cabinet gripes

Brits will no longer be able to object to the arrival of "ghastly" fibre optic cabling cabinets outside their homes: Blighty's new broadband minister has stamped her authority on moves to upgrade the nation's internet infrastructure that sidestep local councils. Maria Miller, who replaced Jeremy Hunt earlier this week during …


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  1. Julian Smart

    We used to be capable of designing things of beauty, or at least relatively attractive objects, such as post boxes.

    Would it be beyond the wit of today's designers to make them attractive, or otherwise blend into the scenery in some way? Zero imagination seems to have been applied to this problem. A matter of cost, I guess. But perhaps residents could vote on a number of available designs and even pay a small amount, rather than have the annoyance of walking past an eyesore several times a day.

    1. Haku

      "We used to be capable of designing things of beauty, or at least relatively attractive objects, such as post boxes."

      Those days are sadly long gone, for example several years ago there was a comission for a very important piece of artwork that would be plastered all over the country on merchandise and shown all over the world on television yet the final choice looked terrible and everyone ridiculed it.

      What am I talking about? The 2012 Olympics logo...

      1. Peter Johnstone
        Thumb Up

        I agree, the olympic logo looks like Liza Simpson giving head.

        As for the relatively attractive objects, the red telephone box, pillar box and the police box have all become iconic parts of British culture, and not only due to the police box featuring in Doctor Who, and the other two appearing in DW spoofs. I'd rather see something along those lines.

        Who ever down voted your post must be an absolute cock.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          An absolute cock for having a different taste with regard to a totally subjective thing like design of a logo?

          Forgive me for not towing the commentard line and agreeing with everyone else.

          1. Peter Johnstone

            Re: @Peter

            I was fully expecting you to be one of these folks that inexplicably down vote a fairly innocuous post for no apparent reason. Kudos to you for replying, I retract my 'absolute cock' statement, although you obviously don't have enough conviction in your beliefs not to post as ac, otherwise I would have upvoted your post.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The logo is OK

          The logo is OK - it is a thing of beauty. If you compare it to the mascots of course.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Huawei != We

      Sorry dude, Huawei != We at least as far as as subset of We equal to Me is concerned.

      No thanks.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Huawei != We

        Maybe you would have liked Ferranti to make the boxes? Too bad, Iran-Contra and all that ;)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Huawei != We

        Gee, did you get a bad Kung Po Chicken sometime? ;)

    3. dssf


      If in 1999 Comcast was to be believed, then every time my whole development experienced a blackout, it was because a motorist along highway 5 or 209 crashed into a cable box alongside the highway on a rainy or foggy/tuley fog night -- what an UNLUCKY box, poor thing. Sick of that lame excuse, I looked at a map, and hollered or curtly replied that that CO ("Central Office") box was 4 miles away. It was insane that a box would be alongside a busy freway, strikeable, and be one that was responsible for a development of 3,000 homes built and 2,000 more on the way. It was preposterous, especially given that these outtages seemed to be every few months -- for a car crash reason. When the outtage was not a box-strike or overheating failure,I think they were just pissed that I used Linux and flat-out refused to install their fracking spyware CD on my machines or even route my machines through a windoze box. Yeh, they made keyloggers (which I only suspect, cannot prove) for Win and Mac, but not for Linux. I even commented that AT&T and Comcast started out with a Unix history and as a matter of PRIDE they should have on stafff at least 3 or 4 UNIX/Linux-savvey people on staff. I even had to argue with them that ALL THEY NEEDED TO DO WAS TO PING my router, not be privileged to a persistent conversational link with my machine, sniffing my network, forcing me to block their probes.

      So, maybe one reason for all those boxes is to make sure there is redundancy to sniff a home no matter how much bandwidth a greedy neighbor is sucking down, such as those playing Half-Life and other tournament games of the day, hahaha

      Sometimes, phone and cablecos can be deeply invasive and evasive and intensive and endtensive pains in the rear.

      1. FartingHippo
        Black Helicopters

        Re: COMCAST

        Oooo-kay. I think you need a dried frog pill.

      2. Blitterbug

        Re: COMCAST rant

        Mr dssf,

        My mouse hovered uncertainly over 'upvote' and 'downvote' for a while, but sadly 'downvote' won the day. I wanted to upvote your insane diatribe, but couldn't be sure it was ironic. Ah well...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If people complain to the council's about the cabinets being eyesores and block installation permission then they have a few more issues they need to deal with first - like getting a life.

      I would have thought these would be the very LEAST of the things that are classified as an eyesore.

      DISCLAIMER - I have one about 3 metres outside my window.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We all know what needs to be done...

      I say make Jonathan Ive work to keep his bloody knighthood.

      True, he might make them all look like iPhones, but at least lots of people seem to like that sort of thing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: We all know what needs to be done...

        They'd be a pile of glass granules in no time :P

    6. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Your post box idea seems a start. :)

      A round Fiber cabinet? Could rotate as well for easy access to cabling. :P

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > We used to be capable of designing things of beauty, or at least relatively attractive objects, such as post boxes.

      Excuse me Madam/Sir we would like to stick this large red phallus shaped pillar box right outside your home. It wont blend in or match the surroundings in any way and is, in fact, designed to stand out. What's that? You object? Tough, this is the 19th century and we can stick these wherever we want to. You might think these are bright garish monstrosities but in a hundred years or more peoples will think the designs are beautiful and will fight not to have them removed.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But some people dislike those, especially the nice bright red colour, and try to repaint them, beauty is in the eye of the beholder ;)

  2. Usually Right or Wrong

    And when the cable breaks?

    Private landowners will also be told that fibre can be laid under or above their land, with the government doing away with "the bureaucratic burden of long-running negotiations"

    Lawnmowers, spades etc. and the whole neighbourhood goes dark? Who would be responsible for repair? Who will keep chopping cables because they resent being told it is going on their land whether they like it or not?

    1. Chris007

      Re: And when the cable breaks?

      Exactly - this is only going to end in tears. Although I suspect wealthy Tory land owners will be spared...

      1. Ted Treen
        Thumb Down

        Re: Chris007

        ...and nothing to do with the wealthy socialist landowners? Blair? Mandelson et al...

        and don't forget the prime example of wealthy socialists - everyone's best buddy Robert Maxwell...

      2. John Styles

        Re: And when the cable breaks?

        End in tears in the cable. Boom boom.

      3. kiwimuso
        Thumb Up

        Re: And when the cable breaks? @Chris007

        "Although I suspect wealthy land owners of any political persuasion will be spared..."

        There, fixed it for you!!

        1. Chris007

          Re: And when the cable breaks? @kiwimuso

          Thanks to all those who corrected me - I was obviously just picking on the current govt (sorry libdems but you don't count...).

    2. Radbruch1929

      Re: And when the cable breaks?

      I don't have anything to say regarding the resentment and cable chopping but the home owner should not be totally defenseless with regard to the land usage. Art 11 of the EC telecommunications directive holds that the rights of way may not be used to discriminate in either direction i.e. against land owner and telecommunications provider. So while the directive allows to use rights of way to lay cable it does not seem to allow for carte blanche for the telecoms or Ms. Miller either.

  3. Ol'Peculier

    Must admit, the new cabinet that covers my house is stuck in the middle of a piece of grass, across the road from the old box, which is also in teh middle of a piece of grass. I don't understand why they couldn't put the new ones next to it's analogue cousin, maybe somebody can enlighten?

    1. dkjd

      Maybe they don't want to dig up around the old box and risk breaking analog cables that are not placed exactly where they expect them?

      Maybe they are being nice to the local dog population?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Maybe the solitude helps them think more clearly and plan world domination and extermination of the simians better.

    3. leexgx

      most of the time is due to getting Power to the Cab its far cheaper to dig up the road them self and stick it on the other side of the rd then it is to get the power company to do it

  4. Roger B


    Not living in one of leafy suburbs mentioned, I've not had the pleasure of seeing one of these ginourmous cabinets, clicking back through the links to previous Register articles does not bring up a photo, can someone point me in the direction of one installed and looking horrible? I just want to see what the fuss is about.


    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Pictures?

      The fibre one is the one on the left.

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Pictures?

        Ah! The picture explains it. They had to stop using the analogue design because of the rounded corner patent.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pictures?

        But what's that godawful ugly brick box in the background, have they no style? ;)

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pictures?

        It looks no worse than a traffic-light controlling box, and considerably cleaner, for now ;)

    2. Alex 0.1

      Re: Pictures?

      There are a few varieties of both old and new cabinets, the new full size ones look like this:

      Random people next to one for scale:

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. cortland

        Radio Active, perhaps.

        Be of good heart and brave; if your manufacturers are as good at skirting regulations as some I've seen here, the boxes will be so far above EN 55022 they'll be noticed as soon as a police car drives by.

        Not that Ofcom has a good reputation for protecting radio users. Remember PLT?

        1. Snar

          Re: Radio Active, perhaps.

          You beat me to it! I bet the people who are whining about these beautiful cabinets being lovingly situated outside their homes are quite happy to fling electromagnetic shit at their neighbours by using PLT.

          It seems strange that there wasn't this hullabaloo when Virgin deployed their service, maybe because their cabs are a lot smaller and are sited with more respect for the surroundings than Bastard Telecom?

      3. Snar
        Thumb Up

        Re: Pictures?

        The random's appear positively chuffed with their shiny new green box :)

        1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          Re: Pictures?

          I'd be chuffed if I had one right outside my place. The speed boost would be fantastic.

    3. Richard 26

      Re: Pictures?

      BT cabinet in leafy suburb coming up:

      1. Roger B

        Re: Pictures?

        Thats it? I've seen those! I was expecting some great hulking wardrobe type of thing. I admit the cabinet photo with the two random people is perhaps a little obtrusive if you live in that property, but they are not as bad as I believed them to be.

        If those suburbs don't want them, move on, use them somewhere else and they can wait till the end of the upgrade list.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Pictures?

          You are missing the point.

          The biggest idiocy about these boxes is that they are not designed to serve full capacity. It is (like _ALL_ BT broadband products before it) designed to be killed by its own popularity.

          1. The box can handle only a fraction of the households in the wiring coverage area. You will have to raise a whole "high rise district" of these if everyone takes the "Infinity"

          2. The box must coexist with the old wiring box because the vested interests in UK telecoms sector require that the old copper infrastructure is _RETAINED_ in parallel with the fiber to the curb.

          So as a result you have an "unsightly erection" rising right in the middle of your neighborhood. So do you like it or not the NIMBYs have a point here. In any case, driving them down their throat is also wrong. What the "dear minister" should do is drive them (and NTL boxes) down the utllities throat. There is a place in every neighborhood which has power, is out of sight and has enough space to house the whole high rise - the local power distribution substation. These are fenced off so even something as butt ugly as the current cabients can happily live there.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Pictures?

        Hah! I live in surrey and the complained abour "impeded" sightlines are still gloriously open compared with what passes for "safe" at various intersections.

      3. Steven Batchelor

        Re: Pictures?

        Please can i have one in my street, I wont complain promise !!

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pictures?

        Are they going to "conserve"'the fugly concrete wall topped with steel railings,, reinforced concrete pillars at the side of the road (with reflective moderno red stripe in them, classy!) 3 to 4 metre-high reflective metal roadsigns and speed limits on tubular metal posts, yet another brick box monstrosity "traditional house", and scuzzy badly maintained fading painted road markings for "School" - think of the children! Oh and the threadbare grass and rather dismal amateur looking tarmac "footpath". Is it a "park" ? :P Go to the Nordics or Switzerland and see how it's done, especially the road markings.

        Other than that, yeah, it's totally a rural idyll :P

        OK I am being a bit ironic, I have seen much worse I suppose. No doubt the area is worth a fortune too.

  5. dajames Silver badge

    How ugly can it be?

    It's just a rectangular box with rounded corners. I believe such things are regarded as paragons of aethetics in some quarters.

    1. Spasch

      Re: How ugly can it be?

      Someone I know, has pictures of the different cabs..

      See them here:

      1. Spasch

        Re: How ugly can it be?

        I should've added its the Huawei and ECI cabs that are currently being deployed.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How ugly can it be?

          Huawei sounds like a Geordie throwing up.

          Anyway, it can't be that hard to design a half-timbered cabinet, can it? And maybe, unlike the NTL-era cabinets, they could have doors that lock and stay shut (unlike the one at the end of my street, that I'm always tempted to repatch)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: How ugly can it be?

            Why not go the whole hog and just make it Mock-Tudor? :P

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: How ugly can it be?

              It'd be worth seeing the engineer's face when he turns up and finds the cabinet has been redecorated with pebble-dash and faux timber beams.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How ugly can it be?

      It's just a rectangular box with rounded corners. I believe such things are regarded as paragons of aethetics in some quarters.

      and copyrighted! BT, b-ware!!! :D

    3. Peter Johnstone

      Re: How ugly can it be?

      The words 'rectangle' and 'rounded corners' in a comment on el reg without mentioning 'Apple' and 'patent'. You sir deserve a pint!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, if the council thinks their ugly, pay to make them pretty! Personally I want direct fiber to the exchange! since I already have a direct cable to the exchange they can rip it up and shove some fiber downfor me!

    1. ElNumbre

      Who's ugly? The councillers, the neighbourhood nimby's, or the BT engineers?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Oh god...

        "councillors", "NIMBYs"

        And if you wanted to call attention to the original commenter's use of the possessive "their" instead of "they're", then it is "Whose", not "Who's".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Who's" is a contraction of "who is/has" so is perfectly valid in the OP's sentence.

  7. Craig Vaughton


    Getting the boxes in is one thing, getting anyone back to cable them up seems to be another! They've planted a string of these around us in part of Sheffield, but that was the last we saw of any activity.

    1. snowlight

      Re: Locally

      No idea where in Sheffield you are but over Pitsmoor way I have a stonkingly fast connection via Origin Broadband. Check out to see who you can get.

  8. Dazed and Confused Silver badge


    Chelsea snobs turning down the future meant that BT could get on with rolling out broadband to the rest of us. Now if they can't shoot themselves in the foot, the rest of us will end up with longer waits... and the b&^%$£ds at BT have already shoved back the local exchange upgrade by 15 months. If people want to enter the darwin awards we shouldn't stop them.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bugger

      Just imagine the fuss if the proposal was for two metre tall, bright red boxes like these.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    These units are nothing more than the telephony/electrical cabling or lamp posts or pillar boxes, etc......... They are necessary pieces of equipment.

    Anyone whinging on about them should be publicly flogged and made to realise that there are far more important issues to be concerned about. W O W the 'glish can be a right bunch of wan ers.

    1. JohnG Silver badge

      Necessary equipment

      How do you feel about the supply of electricity then? I fail to see why broadband providers are free to dump their kit on the pavement whilst electricity boards and other utilities are obliged to purchase land or wayleaves for all their kit. They are typically expected to procure sufficient land to hide their sub-stations behind hedges.

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Re: Necessary equipment

        Substations are usually housed in a building large enough to serve as a two-room dwelling, and in addition are full of very dangerous high voltage electricity, so there are very good, practical reasons why they need to be kept out of the way.

        1. JohnG Silver badge

          Re: Necessary equipment

          In several countries, power transformers are stuck on poles along the street, safely out of reach - but even if ground level buildings or cabinets are deemed necessary, the trees and shrubbery to hide everything are entirely superfluous. If other utilities are forced to pretty up their kit, it seems only fair that the same rules apply to the telcos.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Necessary equipment

            > If other utilities are forced to pretty up their kit, it seems only fair that the same rules apply to the telcos.

            Somebody needs to tell the power company this. My local sub station is on the edge of a small park in a small squat brick building surrounded by an iron fence topped with razor wire. They have painted the fence green though so I guess this counts as prettying it up.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Necessary equipment

              Gee, what a waste of decent paint, It is what it is :P

  10. squilookle

    I see it like this. There are some parts of the country that don't want the upgrades because they think the boxes are an eyesore. There are plenty of other parts that will want the upgrade and won't mind the boxes. So, the simple, short term, solution would be to get on with installing it in the places that want it.

    While i don't think the cabinets are that bad from the pictures I have seen, if the locals don't want them, I don't think they should be forced. Give them the chance again in a few years after they have been left behind, or work with them to position them better or make them look better/blend in.

    But that;s this (and previous) governments all over - you'll get it whether you want it or not and we'll call it "cutting out bureaucracy" to make the whole thing sound less evil.

  11. nichomach


    "Exceptional circumstances would be considered on a case-by-case basis, the DCMS said."

    I suspect the Kensington & Chelsea NIMBY contingent will be found "exceptional" in double-quick time...

  12. earl grey Silver badge

    this is a lolz

    This same whinging has been going on the the united snakes for some time (in the areas lucky enough to get fibre) and i find it hilarious since i can't get DSL or fibre where i live.

    bring on the big ugly box....i'll dress it up with some camo paint so it fits in better

    1. cortland

      Re: this is a lolz

      More likely, here, to get free decoration with stylish and indecipherable graffiti and gang signs.

  13. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's very simple

      Sounds fine until you think about it. The old cabinets have no provision for ventilation and no provision for mains power. That's no service for you or for anyone else in the area.

      Fortunately the networks are maintained and expanded by those with slightly more of a clue that certain Reg commentards.

  14. dssf

    Creative landowners can start spiking their land with, well, spikes, and such. Then, so long as they put up warnings to diggers and trench makers, they MIGHT be legally clear, so long as they do it before ever getting a notice of intent to dig for cableco purposes. But, the cablecos should NOT be allowed to send a notice adn then sit on their asses for months or years in advance. They have to plant the box within 3 months, or reset the clock at the risk of be spiked out.

    And, as a non-UK resident, don't the landowners and homeowners even get a say in the perimeter location of those boxes? In California, in new developments, the builders at LEAST try to set demarcs for the cablecos to route their lines and plant their boxes in respectable/responsible locations. It is a bitch and 2/3 to have one in the wrong place in the lawn, and some have them IN THEIR DRIVEWAY, meaning they may have to move their vehicle if a work order is in effect. Those boxes should NEVER, EVER be inside the land perimeter of a privately-owned home. They should trace the perimeter, and sensible developers and town/city/parish/district administrators should develop master plans to specifically lay out rights-of-way so that everyone in the process knows where the easements are, all for the very sane reason of preventing bad neighbors and sloppy government from encroaching unfairly, unlawfully, or negligently. Sometimes, neighbors can order a bad neighbor to tear down an overhang, even if it is a cherished tree. A sagging, delipidated fence can be ordered repaired at the expense of the homeowner who created conditions to ruin the fence.

    When I in 99 was buying an unbuilt-yet home, I made it clear to the builders that I didn't want any fucking cable boxes crossing my yard, planted in my driveway, or along the sidewalk to be a nuissance to car doors of my friends or of others. Fortunately, the easment for the cableco was on the OTHER side of the fence of my back yard, out on the main thoroughfare, where the cablecos would work without disruption and without inconveniencing homeowners. It's a hellofalot harder, though for older development with little wriggle room, sadly. So, if you CAN, but new, buy before it's build, and if you cannot to that, then get a copy of the builder's plans, county's easements rights/claims, and other info that should be publicly available.

    1. Dan White

      Dude. Less Coffee. Seriously.

      And perhaps some anger management classes.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Maybe you could just shoot the installers, and then run them over a few times until you run out of gas and calm down a bit? :P

      OK that was humour, I'm not actually recommending it, bad dog, bad dog, down, have a biscuit, tickle tummy?!

  15. Professor Falken

    Sod London, let's try other areas of the UK that don't even have speeds above 6Mbps yet...

    "Meanwhile, NIMBYs in Kensington & Chelsea and other well-heeled parts of London will be bitterly grumbling into their G'n'Ts tonight, because they will not be able to oppose fibre-optic cabinet installations in their boroughs."

    Fine, BT - if you want to cable the towns in south-east Wales instead, please feel free to do so, apparently I might actually get ADSL2+ in December this year...


    (P.S. Need an icon for "Don't know they're born...." :P )

  16. ukgnome

    Why can't we just paint them to blend in with the surroundings?

    Although that might not actually work if I think about it. My neighbourhood already has a vast array of large boxes dumped on its streets.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Seriously, who gives a f*ck, many street corners already have the "dog ugly" green boxes.. all they are doing is swapping the dam things out with very slighly bigger ones.

    So, stop ya bitching and start ya digging.. I want my FFTC now!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Obviously they should be made to look like little miniature vicarages, or made out of surface-mount/flexi components and put in as bowling creases. Or maybe as mini-Gherkins. Pink, illuminated ones.

  18. dssf

    Well, if the local government is dependent upon the EC, then...

    Do the London/UK/English residents have recourse to ask the EC to take an oversight stance on the issues? If UK citizens are paying tax dollars to the EC, then shouldn't the EC have to listen? If the EC has to listen, and not be filtered by judges and local government officials, then in legit cases, cannot the citizen complaints at lease force a compromise? Or, have compromises already been thoroughly exhausted?

    At as matter of safety and insurance liability at the very LEAST, boxes should never be installed if they can damage doors of cars, be "atttactive nuissances", or "invite" pedestrians and bicyclists to crash into them. Not many people break a neck flipping a bike or stumbling while joggingg, but they do twist ankles, break hands, and damage their knees or elbows. So, how high up is the minimum for these boxes?

    Are signal concentrators in use, to reduce the number of curbside boxes? Are in-ground trunks or vaults used to reduce the eye-sore factor? It sounds as if some of these things were tried or done, but things also sound out of control if the population affected is getting torqued by all this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well, if the local government is dependent upon the EC, then...

      They only like the EU when it suits them, not when things get tough or it turns out they have obligations to help others :P

  19. Alan Brown Silver badge


    The vast majority of boxes are innoculous and incidents of XYZ tosser putting a cabinet/pole in someone's driveway are newsworthy because they're so rare (it takes a particularly "special" breed of jobsworth to make that kind of cockup and push through on it once on site, even if that's the only practical location for the thing.)

    C&K has a large NIMBY contingent who've been systematically using objections to prevent mobile masts being erected to fill in black spots - most of those objections have centered on the visual impact of cabinets used (which are generally significantly larger than these BT cabs), because the masts being used tend to be virtually indistinguishable from a lamp post. As such, if they don't object to the BT cabs there's a fear that mobile companies might be allowed to get on with what they've been doing and pollute their children with all those eeeeeeeeeevil radio waves.

    It wouldn't surprise me to find that BT has been placing FTTC cabinets in a way which will make life harder for competitors to roll out physical infrastructure later on, but the vast majority of them are next to the existing street cabinets. In the case of those that aren't, the usual reason is that there are issues with the ground in the normal spot (underlaying cables, trees, pipes, etc etc etc. This has been a topic of conversation with the local council on other topics such as siting of streetlights in the middle of the footpath instead of edges)

    Having seen what's been exposed in my street as OR contractors have dug trenches for power and fibre, etc, I have a new respect for their abilities to make holes inthe ground without disrupting essential services. There's a huge mess under the average engiish urban/suburban tarmac - out of sight, out of mind, with inadequate records for accurately locating/identifying anything more than 20-30 years old.

    1. Amonynous

      Re: Boxes

      "It wouldn't surprise me to find that BT has been placing FTTC cabinets in a way which will make life harder for competitors to roll out physical infrastructure later on."

      BT would never resort to to such underhand tactics, and it is outrageous of you to even suggest that they would.

      Nor would they look at a 9-duct building entry point in a brand new office development in the City and decide to run their cables through the top three ducts in such a way as to effectively block COLT or any else from using the remaining ducts later, hoping the tenants would take the path of least resistance and buy from BT. Or do exactly the same on the redundant entry point on the opposite side of the development. No, didn't happen.

  20. EvilGav 1
    Thumb Up

    In general, thank the FSM, maybe this will increase the speed of rollout (although, allegedly, i'll be getting this at the end of the month anyway).

    However, i'd caution the complete throwing away of over-sight - for example, the old town of Edinburgh is a world heritage site, i'm pretty sure these boxes would remove that status.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I thought the "New Town" did that already hundreds of years ago :P

      Plus the original town is below your feet anyway. ;)

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    What about

    Making them into free wifi routers as well when they are installed? - might give them a better appeal.....

  22. chipxtreme

    I don't care how ugly they are they can place one in my front garden if it means I can get fibre on our fibre enabled exchange, which only seems to make it at best a mile from exchange and anyone who lives further away....tough :(

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I want it shaped like a metal skull, with AlienWare-style LED "eyes" for Mrs Miggins to choke on her Earl Grey over :P Can they make them howl a bit at night too? ;)

  23. groMMitt

    Hah - why do I care, when Ian Livingstone tells me they have no plans to upgrade my number...I suppose 1.8mbps is wonderful, by their standards, especially over a copper to the exchange line of at least 3 - 4km.

    I'd be grateful if they upgraded the cabling from wood to string...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The LuftWaffe could have helped a bit more, you know. Darned thoughtless of them, slackers!

  24. Christoph Silver badge

    What about other reasons to object?

    Planning permission is not just about appearance.

    Do the BT guys planning the installation have enough local knowledge to avoid for instance blocking vital lines of site at dangerous junctions? Important access routes? Emergency access? All sorts of other possibilities that might be perfectly valid reasons for local residents to object to planning permission.


    is the UK moaning

    Ok seriously the UK ie rural areas need to stop whinging just cause a cabinet gets installed I mean god this country is full of moaning twats. It never ends and you know who it is big ego idiots with nothing better to do and it's these pricks who are holding this country back because there scared it will ruin the area there living in bull crap grow up and let the company's invest bring jobs to rural areas for once instead of cities like London Manchester etc. There's so many fields needing investment.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    if people think a cable box makes their neighbourhood look ugly

    they wont like it in 3 months when half the population is homeless and they'll have to step over people smoking crack in the street. and watch as their local big issue seller gets closer and closer until one day they have a permanent big issue seller in front of their property, shouting into the house. urinating in place.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: if people think a cable box makes their neighbourhood look ugly

      You don't live in Alderley Edge, then? Because the crack would instead be coke, and they'd be senseless on Veuve Cliquot instead, telling their cat about the good old days before vomiting in the pool in their back yard ;)

  27. Charles Smith

    New Minister

    A new Minister in a plush office bounced into making a dumb decision by "Sir Humphrey" on her first day at the big "school".

    Just wait for the fuss when these poorly designed and ugly boxes start littering planning conservation areas. In our locality BT installed telegraph poles across the local recreation ground where the kids play football in order to supply one building. They put up notices on the poles describing the "appeals process" as an afterthought (essentially no hope of appeal).

  28. JaitcH

    Ever heard of a hole? And things that go bump in the night

    The obvious thing to do is to have buried terminal boxes - as they used to do with other telecoms. Out of side and out of mind.

    With broadband there should be no need for frequent visits to 'pedestals' as these eyesores are referred to in the trade.

    A neighbour of mine, who owns a small construction company, had one of these things 'grow' in his lawn, and Bell would erect their 'tent' and work away for days. (There was a telephone switch building in the area).

    Telco's, electricity and water utilities always get 'easements' on subdivisions before the houses are built so they are free to run what they want, where they want - and Bell Telephone wouldn't place it anywhere else.

    There were a few bumps in the night where a 'mysterious' vehicle would run into the box and push it over. Out would come the Bell boys and rebuild the mess.

    Eventually my friend visited with his lawyer who, as lawyers are wont, crawled over the documents pertaining to ownership. He discovered that there were 'legal impediments' that made the box illegal.

    The neighbour then had his back hoe operator dig a sizable trench around the box, as well as nicely disassembling the box, then the dirt was removed from around the cabling until there was a nice hole. He then filled the whole thing up with concrete and replaced some soil and turf.

    The Bell boys were confused, their trace equipment revealed where the box should have been. Long story short, Bell dug a hole in the road and re-terminated the cables in it.

    Still there, 36 years later at the corner of Ernest Avenue and Edmonton Drive near Victoria Park and Finch Avenues, in toronto!

    1. Graham 25

      Re: Ever heard of a hole? And things that go bump in the night

      Yeah, burying delicate electronics six feet under the ground isn;t going to cause any heating problems is it?

      And we never have any rain in the Uk so its not as if they would flood either or get filled with dirt ?

      Dumb suggestion.

  29. Slx

    They're not THAT ugly but we need to plan for the future.

    I don't really know what the fuss is about. We've always lived with street furniture and I don't think this is any worse than anything else!

    We have similar looking Huawei and even larger Alcatel-Lucent cabinets in Ireland. In fact, some small telephone exchanges over here were housed entirely in on-street cabinets before VDSL ever appeared.

    The main cable television operator over here, UPC, has even larger green cabinets which contain their fibre-to-kerb and distribution amplifier equipment. However, they deliver sweet 100mbit/s - 120mbit/s broadband and video on demand, and my HDTV so I am not complaining and they are usually quite well camouflaged.

    We have always had street cabinets since the dawn of utility companies and modern technology going right back to the late 1800s!

    Telephone companies have always had large cabinets housing junctions and distribution equipment to connect up local lines. Those big green cabinets have been around for decades.

    Power companies have cabinets with fuses, metering gear, earthing points, junctions, telemetry, network control etc etc.

    Gas companies have similar boxes for similar reasons.

    Water companies and local councils have cabinets housing meters and telemetry for keeping the water networks leak-free.

    Other boxes house traffic light control systems.

    Modern life requires these services and in general, they are reasonably well integrated into the built environment.

    I don't think those green VDSL boxes are particularly ugly. In many cases, they're less ugly than the buildings they're standing next to :)

    I think though there's a bit of a risk that if it become a total free-for-all the whole place will be dug up to lay ducts and cables.

    It would make more sense if local authorities did some joined-up thinking and actually laid neutral ducts that could be used by any utility company that needed them. Or, as is common elsewhere in Europe, provide easily removable areas of brick pavement or grass-margin that can be dug up and restored without all the need for cracking up paving and road surfaces.

    ALL new build housing and all new road surfacing projects should include laying neutral ducts. Space should then be provided for street cabinets for whatever technology's needed now or in the future.

    The reality is that we have no idea what technology might arrive and the most sensible approach is to provide the physical infrastructure (ducts, vaults and cabinet spaces and easily accessible 230V/400V power) to easily rollout whatever technology comes along as it evolves.

  30. John H Woods Silver badge

    If we are going to have a massive push towards better connectivity...

    ... there should be at least some emphasis on wireless and mobile provision. Surely this is where much of the future of internet connectivity lies?

    1. the spectacularly refined chap

      Re: If we are going to have a massive push towards better connectivity...

      Everything looks rosy when you implicitly assume infinite spectrum or that Shannon can be cast aside with a magic wand. In reality the laws of physics kick in and you are essentially left with three options:

      1) Everyone has low speed, long distance wireless communications.

      2) A privileged few have high speed, long distance wireless communications.

      3) Everyone can have high speed, short distance communications.

      Options one and two are unacceptable politically. Option three increases the effective bandwidth available by allowing the same frequencies to be re-used repeatedly in different areas and is the only acceptable option. However, it is the one that places the greatest demands on the physical network providing the service - in other words, on street cabinets and underground cables.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If we are going to have a massive push towards better connectivity...

        Shannon? You're getting Rockall :P

  31. Werner McGoole

    Leafy suburbs demand... leaves

    They should do what they do with phone masts (i.e. make them look like trees). I'm sure a few plastic leaves could make them look like a nice bit of suburban shrubbery, or a hedge, or topiary even. Depending on how posh the neighbourhood is.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Leafy suburbs demand... leaves

      "Some Countries" have redundant ex-KGB offices in lots of locations which invariably come with rather splendid 20+m-high radio masts in the garden which can be (and are) made prettier and more sightly by putting nice shiny new cellphone and other comms antennae on them. Sometimes the buildings are now tourist hostels etc.(less screaming) Recycling in action, very Green :P

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Leafy suburbs demand... leaves

      You're planning to ask them to get you a shrubbery first when they turn up to install the box?

      Do you say "Ni" a lot too?

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are other reasons to object to cabinets, not just aesthetic reasons.They can clutter up the pavements and make it hard for the blind and wheelchair users to get pass. Especially when combined with the problem of idiots parking their cars on the kerb.

    They do tend to attract vandalism and graffiti too.

  33. Zot

    Government hates Virgin Media?

    (Vandalised here of course)

    You can see the Virgin Media boxes look tiny in comparison. Yet they lost the bids? They're currently supplying me with a measurable 60Mb connection, and I don't remember seeing any boxes in the surrounding streets.

    I don't understand.

  34. despairing citizen
    Big Brother

    put an end to local democracy

    The ministerial "put an end to local bureaucracy" actually means put an end to local democracy.

    The average planning application goes through in a couple of weeks, it takes BT Openreach 90 days to planning the procurement of toliet paper, let alone put stuff in the ground.

    Additionally if the cable co's cant get a PM that plans to have to submit a planning app, suitably in advance the date they need permission (along with all the other paper work for Highways to know you want to block the street with equipment, etc,) then they should sack them and get somebody competant,

    The idea of the planning system for the last 50+ years, is to make sure that appropriate, thought through development takes place, and that the local comunity that is impacted by the development can have it's say.

    One would suggest that if BT, et al, spent half as much money engaging with the local comunities that it did in wine'ing and dining ministers and party functionaries, they probably would have less planning objections!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: put an end to local democracy

      'Localism' didn't last very long, did it?

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I have one of the offending cabinets a few yards from my house. It is almost identical to the old cabinet that stands nearby, except that it is much more nicely painted.

    Before you complain about a few relatively small, rectangular, metal boxes each of which helps connect hundreds of people to the Internet, why not complain about telephone wires and poles, TV aerials, microwave towers, satellite dishes, bus stops, letter boxes, electricity substations, railway stations, railway lines, trains... the list is almost endless.

  36. Dan White

    One appeared outside my house...

    ... about six months ago, courtesy of Virgin Media.

    It's a squat beige box of ugliness, which I can forgive, but would have preferred green. It's also a good twelve inches clear of the wall, putting it right next to the pavement, which seemed a little poorly planned, and makes reversing into my drive a *little* trickier.

    However, all of this pales into insignificance when compared to the consistent 60Mbps I'm now getting, being 20 feet from the cabinet :-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One appeared outside my house...

      That's what I was going to say, who cares what network gear looks like, as long as it does a good job!

      I guess if you accidentally total it a couple of times with the car, they might learn and move it a bit if it's at all possible. Hopefully it's made of something softer than your car!

      In these here parts we had a "flying" car that had just ricocheted (is that the word?) heavily off a stupidly-driven hatchback at a crossroads, which then was caught by a ditch (excellent slowing down zone with big bushes to help), but not before it had walloped our power junction cabinet outside. Luckily (for us) that is made of heavy galvanised steel and concrete! I was mildly scuffed but ok, I think the door needed adjusting ;)

      The Nissan Almera, already a short car, that had caused the accident, by going full-throttle into the driver's door of the other car, was considerably further shortened, incidentally new-ish Skoda Octavias- dear Lord they are tough, driver's door a bit restyled but clearly the beams in it, and the sills below it had done a good job. Seems they have some kind of accident-triggered engine mount failsafes as well though, that one wasn't going anywhere afterwards, I think the idea is to drop the motor on the ground rather than in your lap :P

  37. Anonymous Coward


    With the growth of mobile devices, wouldn't it make more sense to concentrate on fibre to the pole, and providing good Wireless networking (3G, 4G & WiFi)? OK, businesses and some heavy-users would still want fibre to the building, but for most a fast wireless connection would be preferable.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Local councils being obstructive? Well, that's rich!

    The local authority set up is there to provide a way to allow for considered review to take place on anything that involves the building of structures in the public domain. An increasing problem, however, is one where dissatisfied people, corporates included, then try to short-circuit or play the system by involving central government who ignore the views given to the local authority. They will either then involve some vested interest such as a QUANGO or just get some secretary of state to give an uninformed decision, and everyone is happy.

    Except the people that have to live with it.

    This is just another example of corporate lobbying overruling public wishes and opinion.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hey, don't sweat it, if they don't want comms, don't give ''em any. They'll soon learn (maybe).

    Thay'll be screaming for it eventually if Tarquin or Jolyon can't get to twitter Hello-mag--style on their iPads.

    Don't the glorious Free Markets rely on demand? Why should the public purse force organised infrastructure "supply" on these ungrateful retards. Ignore them, give it to the rest that want it!

    I'm sure the cosy "historic" features they probably lovingly prize and demand historic listed-building style legal status for, like telephone boxes and cast iron Royal Mail pillarboxes, and the old blue Police Boxes, were once seen as modernistic eyesores. Like the lovingly converted Satanic Mills that some of them probably live in. You know, where low-paid weavers used to lose their hearing in.

    Like St. Paul's Cathedral was. It had a wall round it so people couldn't see it until it was too late. Kind of like how they build prison extensions now ;)

    I'm betting they didn't have the guts to tell the constabulary to "eff off" in the old days when one of the blue Police Boxes was needing to be built nearby. Plus folks in those days generally had respect for others, not just mindless individualism.

    Heck, some NIMBYs still try to paint pillarboxes their favourite colour until they get busted for messing with corporate property without permission.

    They're called "conservative" for a reason, that's because they don't like change, especially if it involves other people getting a competitive advantage over them in society, especially a technological one. Good heavens, it might cause some social mobility, gosh! Perish the thought! I mean, necessary to say in public that is what they believe in, but actually, we know how it really is, eh?

    They are living in a fake, imagined, past. Steam trains weren't always "cute".

    Oooh was I a bit harsh. Oops. :P

  40. Christian Berger

    So... vital to the nation?

    I can understand that they try to push through such "cabinets" since they solve a serious problem threatening the country. A bit of inconvenience can be expected.

    But why don't they go a step further and nationalize the telecoms? I mean currently you have ISPs which don't seem to want to upgrade their networks. You have ISPs with network congestion, not only at the peak hour, but also during the day. Yet Internet is not really cheaper than at places where networks are properly designed.

    So cut all the bloat and bureaucracy of a commercial company and nationalize it. Just declare fibre to every home as a national goal. Come on, you have been able to bail out banks. That was a massive undertaking. Re-wiring your country is cheap compared to that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So... vital to the nation?

      You mean like in the old days when we had an effective, organised telecoms system, which was generally backed up by the Govt if it wanted to do a big project properly, and told objectors to get lost?

      (on the negative side they didn't like you to put in your own handsets, although that changed eventually)

      Plus, serious research, and the first computers. Look up Tommy Flowers.

      Thomas "Tommy" Harold Flowers, MBE (22 December 1905 – 28 October 1998) was an English engineer. During World War II, Flowers designed Colossus, the world's first programmable electronic computer, to help solve encrypted German messages.

      Yes, it was secret, and ran hot as the tubes were considered to be very reliable as long as it never got powered down....

      "The COLOSSUS, becuase of its components, generated a lot if heat and most operators (who were mostly women) had to work in their underwear. (Remember this was the 1940s) Often the room was used for drying wet laundry. "

  41. John Styles

    Back of the queue

    BT (or rather the subcontractors of the subcontractors of their subcontractors) put a giant green wardrobe in the middle of a narrow path blocking it from people wheeling push-chairs / wheelchairs etc. and blocking the view towards the main road from the shared drive of a few houses. After some complaining (by me and the people whose view was blocked) it was removed. Clearly we are now at the bottom of the list as one has yet to reappear in the more sensible location by the strange Post Office green box into which things for postmen to deliver are put.

    I cannot say that I care personally, I don't quite see the need for something faster than my 4 MB/s link, but maybe some people have unusually refined / high bandwidth porn needs.

  42. geekyscottyuk

    You know what. Screw the design (within reason) of the new FTC boxes. I'd be happy with one of those planted in my living room if it means getting above 1 meg / 200 kbps up speeds!

    As for laying cable through private land, well yes I would have to say that some negotiation would be required, perhaps with the caveat that if land owners don't want the cable laid on their land, then they should not, necessarily be entitled to lovely fast broadband speeds.

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