Maria Miller vows to cut out ‘bureaucratic’ broadband processes

By Sooraj Shah
07 Sep 2012 View Comments
New culture secretary Maria Miller for the Department for Culture Media and Sport image

Maria Miller has already looked to make her mark as Culture Secretary as the government promises to remove the need for local councils' approval to install broadband cabinets.

Miller, who replaced Jeremy Hunt as part of the ministerial reshuffle on Tuesday, stated that the move will allow the government to "cut through the bureaucracy that is holding [the UK] back."

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The new plans will mean that, unlike previously, broadband street cabinets and other infrastructure can be installed without the need for prior approval from the local council. The only circumstance that this will be excused is in sites of special scientific interest.

Cables and cabinets will also be able to be installed on or under private land, according to the plans.

The government hopes that the new rules will allow broadband companies to incur fewer costs and cut out bureaucracy, particularly the burden of long-running negotiations.

It said it will work with mobile operators, local government and other interested parties to ensure that any planning can be streamlined to speed up the installation of mobile infrastructure.

The government is investing £680m in its attempt to create the best superfast broadband in Europe by 2015, a prospect which is thought to be far-fetched by some. Miller sees the new plans as a first step of a wider picture, in helping the UK economy.

"Superfast broadband is vital to secure our country's future – to kick start economic growth and create jobs. We are putting in the essential infrastructure that will make UK businesses competitive, and sweeping away the red tape that is a barrier to economic recovery," she said in a statement.

Councils are yet to comment on the new proposals but they may come as a surprise, particularly to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, who in June pulled the plug on BT's rollout of superfast broadband in the area because the cabinets that the telecoms giant installed "ruined the streetscape" of the area.

However, the council has since said that it has "already reached a situation with BT Openreach where 115 out of 120 of the locations proposed have been agreed without compromising on our duty to look after our heritage".

The council said it has even offered to waive planning fees worth over £40,000 to "help rapid broadband rollout" in the area.

Asked about timing, a spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport told Computing: "It is definitely going ahead, it is just a matter of how – they can legislate after spring 2013, which is when the consultation period ends."

The government said it will also work with broadband infrastructure providers, power companies and regulator Ofgem to develop a national contract for providing broadband infrastructure with a power supply.

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