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BT Fibre Pulls Out of Chelsea Over Ugly Equipment Cabinets 136

Posted by timothy
from the sounds-like-some-elvis-costello-lyrics dept.
judgecorp writes "The up-market London borough of Kensington and Chelsea has lost its chance for BT fast fibre. After residents objected to the ugly fibre cabinets, and the council repeatedly refused permission to install them in historic sites, BT has said the borough will not get its fast BT Infinity product at all. The borough says it doesn't need BT, as Richard Branson's Virgin Media has got it more or less covered."
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BT Fibre Pulls Out of Chelsea Over Ugly Equipment Cabinets

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  • Agreed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Grizzley9 (1407005) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @12:43PM (#40168601)
    TBH, those are fairly ugly. Seems there could be a market for disguising them just like they do some cell phone towers or simply having the city allow it to be put in spaces not out in the open.
    • Re:Agreed (Score:5, Informative)

      by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Thursday May 31, 2012 @12:51PM (#40168743) Homepage

      They look pretty similar to the Virgin boxes that the residents seem to be fine about. Maybe a bit taller.

      BT Infinity is made of fail anyway. It's expensive, slow and capped to hell. Rather than do real fibre to the premises they decided to roll out last century's technology.

      • I've been looking at getting it. How capped to hell? I'm changing ISP in the next week or so. Any recommendations other than BT, SKY, talk talk. Virgin is evil and not on my list ...Even if it was free..
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Taek a look at the UK Free Software Network [ukfsn.org] if you want a non-evil ISP.

          I live in RBKC. I started with talktalk in March, and it's fine. I have only paid in advance for 1 year's phone line rental (£114), but the broadband is literally free for a year (they gave me a tesco voucher £25 and I used a cashback site which gave me £70 amazon voucher).

          Compared to that, BT is really expensive, but then again they currently spend £20 every month sending snailmail spam to every flat in my buildi

          • Re:Agreed (Score:5, Insightful)

            by ATMD (986401) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @04:23PM (#40172075) Journal

            I was on UKFSN when I lived with people, but had to switch to a cheaper ISP when I started living on my own. If I could afford it I'd definitely go back, though - proper business-grade ADSL, a /29 subnet, fantastic latency and great customer support (it's run by a geek in his garage).

            That was a couple of years ago so it may have changed, but I'd certainly be willing to try them again if I had the chance.

      • Re:Agreed (Score:5, Informative)

        by ShakingSpirit (1799676) * on Thursday May 31, 2012 @01:50PM (#40169597)

        They look pretty similar to the Virgin boxes that the residents seem to be fine about. Maybe a bit taller.

        BT Infinity is made of fail anyway. It's expensive, slow and capped to hell. Rather than do real fibre to the premises they decided to roll out last century's technology.

        BT Infinity is great, and pretty much the best choice for internet access in the UK, just as long as you don't get it from BT... Plenty of other providers which resell the same FTTC service but without the crappy throttling/shaping. I'm with Zen and get 60down/20up solidly, couldn't be happier to be honest.

        • by Builder (103701)

          I can't get FTTC from anyone other than BT without major caps. As soon as I want fixed IP as well, I'm SOL - my only choice is BT.

          I'm still tempted, just because my ADSL connection currently is 3Mb/0.6Mb

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          Really? Looking at their website they don't appear to offer that:

          http://www.zen.co.uk/business/broadband/fibre-broadband.aspx [zen.co.uk]

          The closest is 15Mb upload speed and 1000GB/month cap for £78/month inc. VAT. Add the mandatory BT phone line and that is about £91/month. To give you an idea of what a total rip-off that is I pay just under £40/month for Virgin 100Mb/10Mb with no overall cap but various different limits throughout the day.

          It's as if BT don't want people to have it.

      • by Chrisq (894406)
        I think they are a bit smaller, but as this picture shows pretty similar [sydenhamsociety.com].
    • Re:Agreed (Score:4, Informative)

      by RdeCourtney (2034578) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @12:55PM (#40168831) Homepage
      BC Hydro here allow kids to put murals on the boxes like this [eileenmosca.com] and they also wrap a lot of the boxes in flowers and tree photos to blend them into the environment..
    • by Jeng (926980)

      If oil drilling rigs can be so disguised that they aren't noticed in the middle of LA then I am sure that BT could have disguised their cabinets enough to make the snobs happy.

    • Re:Agreed (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MightyYar (622222) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @12:56PM (#40168837)

      Couldn't they have made them into the shape of the old red payphones? This seems like the company was being a bit arrogant.

      • by PPH (736903)
        My thinking exactly. Cover them with tart cards [wikipedia.org] and no one will spot the difference.
      • Re:Agreed (Score:5, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 31, 2012 @01:28PM (#40169299)

        If they made them to look like blue police call boxes people would be fighting over having one on their street.

      • by colinnwn (677715)
        I don't have a dog in this game, but it doesn't seem arrogant to me. If the neighbors wanted BT and thought the boxes were ugly, the council/neighborhood should have offered to pay a reasonable amount for them to be camoflauged. Why should BT pay when they don't pay to camoflauge them in poor residential neighborhoods? Now if they did offer and BT refused or said it would cost them big daddy warbucks, then it does seem arrogant of BT.
        • by ebuck (585470)

          I too don't have a dog in the game. I'm not even on the same contient.

          If BT wants to move into my neighborhood (which seems unlikely) then why should my neighborhood pay _anything_ to bring their equipment up to my existing standards? As long as my neighborhood's standards are not designed to foster unfair competition, it is up to BT to conform with the existing code.

          If a home builder wants to build in a community, they don't get an "assistance" to bring their quality in line with the local code and regul

          • by asdf7890 (1518587)

            If BT wants to move into my neighborhood (which seems unlikely) then why should my neighborhood pay _anything_ to bring their equipment up to my existing standards? As long as my neighborhood's standards are not designed to foster unfair competition, it is up to BT to conform with the existing code.

            Likewise, why should BT bother extending their network into your area if they don't like your conditions? That is essentially what has happened here, and I'm sure BT/OpenReach don't really care. They would have fought the position because they have to: as an incumbent monopoly in certain respects they have provisioning targets set by the industry regulator, but working in that area might be more hassle than it is worth for them. It doesn't matter that the area is pretty rich in fact it makes the area less a

      • by Xest (935314)

        Why were they being arrogant? Pretty much the entire rest of the country seems to have had no problem with them including many old villages around here that even have specially designed streetlights in place by the local council to maintain the historic look of the place.

        I don't see why these two councils felt they deserved special treatment, deserved BT to spend even more money designing/buying/testing/installing specially designed cabinets just for them leaving BT with even less money in it's fibre rollou

    • Re:Agreed (Score:5, Insightful)

      by icebike (68054) * on Thursday May 31, 2012 @12:57PM (#40168855)

      This type of Infrastructure stays around for 50 years on average, and there's no need to accept such crappie equipment strewn all over the landscape because once in, you are stuck, they will never improve or replace them.

      If you don't force them to do it right the first time, it will look like hell forever.

      I have a ground mounted transformer, a telephone cabinet , a cable company cabinet all sitting in my front yard, all because the subdivision builder granted them easements. The service companies bitch where I shroud them with Rhodies.

      • Re:Agreed (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 31, 2012 @01:37PM (#40169401)

        Our street in Ontario has the same problem. Every 8-10 houses you get three service boxes in your front yard (I'm not a utility nerd, so I'm not sure what's what), one of which is the approximate width and depth of a washing machine, and perhaps two and a half feet high, and painted the same green as the boxes in the BT story. All down the street you have these ugly-ass boxes that have been graffitied by neighborhood kids. They bitch when you plant something to camouflage them, but you can't get the bastards to come out and paint the thing when it gets tagged. I really don't want to look like I live in a crackhouse. Props to Chelsea and Kensington for giving BT the whatfor, because once these things are in you're not going to get rid of them.

        • by tom17 (659054)

          "Me too". We bought a new build in Ontario. It was off-plan and was a lovely corner lot which was going to be fantastic to landscape with little rock falls to the back garden with the WO basement.

          It was so exciting watching it being built, I had big plans.

          Then along came the transformer box, the Bell & Rogers boxes nestled together (not even straight) a crooked lamp post and and a crooked stop sign. All this on our 'premium' lot. Oh and the slope to the back garden got 're-graded' and a huge wall put in

          • by Anonymous Coward

            lol

          • by Smauler (915644)

            paper thin walls

            This is the biggest problem with houses... I really think that this is a good place when government regulation could help. The number of times police, courts, etc get involved with noise and neighbour disputes that stem from noise - If you mandated decent walls, you'd save money, grief, and hassle.

            • by tom17 (659054)

              But but but that would eat into the builder's profits!!!

              And yes, we probably cost quite a bit in police time too. Ultimately they told us if we want to fix the problem, move.

              We moved :)

          • by mirix (1649853)

            To top it off, we ended up with paper thin walls,

            That's because shitty North American houses are made out of paper. (usually) :-p

            • by tom17 (659054)

              I miss brick houses. Kinda getting used to the stick houses over here but I still have to wonder why they don't just build real houses in the first place.

              Ahh yes, builders profits :)

        • by colinnwn (677715)
          Not that the USA is anything to aspire to. But it sounds like you have underground utilites with ground level service boxes painted neutral colors. Most of us would love to have that. Only the nicest and richest neighborhoods in the USA have underground utilites. Most neighborhoods have all utilites on poles on the front street. Lucky neighborhoods have the utilites on poles in the alley, so you only see the poles/utilites on crossing streets.

          If it was me, I'd set up a survellence camera on the boxes and
          • Only the nicest and richest neighborhoods in the USA have underground utilites.

            That may be true where you live, in which case I can only imagine that it kind of sucks... In my Californian county, most of the middle-class & affordable suburban housing built in/after 1970 has underground wiring, at least as far as I've seen.

      • by ArsonSmith (13997)

        So why cant the box be buried and an access cover put over it? I never understood these eyesores...

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          So why cant the box be buried and an access cover put over it? I never understood these eyesores...

          It costs more so people only do this where they are forced to, e.g. San Francisco. Fiber doesn't go into above-ground boxes there, it goes into the sidewalk under some bigass metal doors.

    • Re:Agreed (Score:5, Interesting)

      by strength_of_10_men (967050) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @01:34PM (#40169375)

      Here in Ann Arbor, the city has allowed local artists to adopt and paint these types of boxes as well as fire hydrants. It's actually pretty neat. It doesn't quite make them disappear into the background but they're not quite the eyesore anymore.

      http://julihoffman.wordpress.com/tag/ann-arbor-photos/ [wordpress.com]

      • My city had an artist similarly disguise a pair of traffic signal boxes after he'd painted the city's 150-year history on the side of the building the boxes sit next to. He painted the smaller one to look like a crate with (depending on which side is being viewed) a puppy, kitten, or bunch of little chicks, and the big box as a stack of egg crates with a woman in historic (1800s?) clothing dragging her kids away from the animals. He posted the only photos I can find online at the moment: Petaluma signalbo [svn.net]

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I don't think the paint color is the issue, otherwise I expect BT would have agreed to disguise them however the borough wanted. The issue seems to be the location, number, and physical design of the cabinets. No doubt BT is trying to minimize the length of fiber it has to run to save money. If there are fewer cabinets in out-of-the-way locations, then they're going to be that much further from where they need to be to service customers. Underground installations would also obviously increase costs.

      • by icebike (68054) *

        Physical size is clearly the issue here. I can guarantee you that these boxes are mostly empty space inside, and the actual equipment could be configured to fit in a much smaller space.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          I can guarantee you that you're wrong.

          http://www.trefor.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/cabinet-with-kit_small.jpg

          http://www.ispreview.co.uk/ispnews/data/upimages/subfolders/2009%20Broadband%20Hardware/fttc_deployment.jpg

    • by dj245 (732906)
      It wouldn't take a whole lot to put up some cheap, but durable statues or other outdoor art, and build the equipment cabinet into the pedestal base. There are probably artists who would be happy to get their work on public display for little or no cost.

      Or you could build the cabinet really long, and make it look like a bench. It would be warm too.
    • A street artist down in Brighton already took the opportunity to have some fun with these simple green boxes:

      http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/8174462.Brighton_s_Cassette_Lord_on_graffiti__art_and_brushes_with_the_law/ [theargus.co.uk]

  • by Kozz (7764) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @12:44PM (#40168613)

    Perhaps if they're painted like a police box, nobody will even notice they're present?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by zlives (2009072)

      or a CCTV camera

    • Perhaps if they're painted like a police box, nobody will even notice they're present?

      As a bonus, equipment with broken chameleon circuits could continue to operate in the community. Of course, you'd also have to put up signs saying that upon meeting an adult who talks very quickly and mumbles about his screwdriver, you are instructed to immediately provide your full name and some kind of sob story. It'll save them when the monsters, sentient water, spacecraft, and parasites come.

  • by 3vi1 (544505) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @12:45PM (#40168637) Homepage Journal

    In my mind, I like to picture this spat ending with them shouting "INDUBITABLY!" at each other and throwing tea.

    • i just spit my coffee out all over the keyboard reading that.
    • I think you're confusing them with the folks in Boston.

      The Brits value tea far too much to be throwing it anywhere, except in a tea pot to make a brew!

      • by Smauler (915644)

        Heh... the sludge that most people drink, and contaminate with 3 sugars and 1/4 a pint of milk doesn't taste like tea anyway.

        Guess it's a little like coffee in that respect...

  • I would not use Virgin as an ISP if there was any sort of alternative -- I would rather stay at ADSL2 and accept a lower speed. Virgin: just say no!

    • I used Vermin cable internet for several years and had no problems at all.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Well anyone in the habit of saying "no" is more likely to be a virgin.

  • Seems justified... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Antony T Curtis (89990) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @12:49PM (#40168707) Homepage Journal

    From TFA:

    ... would not use sites that already had unused BT equipment ...

    Seems reasonable to refuse on those grounds alone.

  • Aesthetics (Score:2, Insightful)

    by scarboni888 (1122993)

    Every time aesthetics trumps functionality I get just a little bit sadder.

    • Every time aesthetics trumps functionality I get just a little bit sadder.

      Agreed.

      #FirstWorldProblem right here.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Firstworldproblem indeed.
        I just moved to Canary Wharf and considering it is the largest financial sector area in Europe, I'm amazed that I have the suckiest Internet connection I have experienced since approx 1995.
        Can you believe it: No fiber possible, max bandwidth (irrespective of "competition"): 1-2 Mb/s.
        I should have stayed in Zambia where 1) throughput was better - and - 2) if the ISP sucks, you can always fall back on 4G.
        4G has not even been deployed in the UK yet (but is readily available for a human

    • Re:Aesthetics (Score:5, Informative)

      by MrNaz (730548) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @01:33PM (#40169367) Homepage

      If you are unable to see that aesthetics actually has functional value, then I'm surprised you're actually capable of the emotion of "sadness".

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Every time cost trumps quality I get just a little bit sadder.

    • Functionality for who? If I was a customer then *maybe* I wouldn't mind seeing their ugly boxes littering the landscape. But what about everyone else? Not everyone is a customer and some people actually like living in nice places.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Every time I see a neighborhood or historic building legally vandalized, simply so a utility company could make a few extra bucks, I get a little bit sadder.

    • by chrismcb (983081)
      Ever summer I travel to Europe. I visit these grand cathedrals and marvel at the architecture. I check out these really cool old buildings.Then I return home and see all these boring buildings, and get just a little bit sadder.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Those cabinets aren't ugly, they look like your run-of-the-mill residential power transformers. If the council wants them to look different, they should commission someone to make a better cabinet, or design something that can be put over the existing one. Denying over 34,000 residences fast fiber connections is ridiculous.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      If it bothers the "34000" then it's their duty to pressure the council. 34K votes is a bunch.

  • Sounds Like SF (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cis4 (2565359) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @01:07PM (#40169011)
    This same issue came up over AT&T wanting to install boxes in SF. Google SF ATT Boxes.

    As much as I hate NIMBY's, they have a good point here. If you're going to build something on public land, at least make it pleasant, unobtrusive, or both. Otherwise, buy the property and stop relying on the public to subsidize your business.

    I still don't get why utility boxes have to be so ugly. How difficult is it to make a box look appealing?
  • No fiber for you!! Next!!
  • by green1 (322787) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @01:46PM (#40169519)

    Cue the people in that area complaining that BT's service is slow, or that they can't get it at all. They'll invariably blame BT, and won't consider that it was their own politicians who prevented them from getting service.
    Now I wouldn't call those boxes particularly ugly, but I'm sure if the council was willing to work with BT something could be arranged.
    I work for a telco providing fibre service in north america. Our boxes are slightly smaller than that I think (it's hard to get a sense of scale from the photo), and white, they are often hidden behind fences or shrubs, or in back alleys etc. As long as we have access to them, we don't really care what is done to conceal them. In some places they have been treated with a wrap of some form of artwork (one place I really liked was in a touristy part of a city where the box was turned in to a large map of the area, made something that had to be there anyway serve yet another purpose.)

  • FFS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by icebraining (1313345) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @02:08PM (#40169867) Homepage

    The borough says it doesn't need BT, as Richard Branson's Virgin Media has got it more or less covered.

    Yeah, and who needs competition, we all know monopolies are the best way to ensure low prices and good services, am I right?

    I understand that the boxes may be ugly, but that statement is utterly moronic.

    • It's just them playing hardball in the media. Companies and clients routinely do this when it comes to negotiations. Don't be surprised if at some point in the future a compromise is reached with nicer looking boxes.

  • I understand their complaint and it's reasonable. Just use a pretty box.

  • This seems to be as good a place as any to ask this: why are providers going with FTTC anyway, rather than FTTH (fibre-to-the-home)? These large cabinets are artifacts of FTTC -- at some point the fibre has to be broken out into bundles of dozens or hundreds of copper (coax or twisted-pair) drops that then need to be driven with enough power to push the signal for the last few hundred metres. Isn't this already a flawed approach? Moreover, this reduces the total bandwidth available between the local exch

  • Virgin Media (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Vahokif (1292866) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @04:43PM (#40172385)

    Richard Branson's Virgin Media has got it more or less covered

    As a Virgin Media customer in Kensington, I can say that's a load of horsesh

    • by aiht (1017790)

      Richard Branson's Virgin Media has got it more or less covered

      As a Virgin Media customer in Kensington, I can say that's a load of horsesh

      Are you just censoring yourself out of politeness, or did you truncate your sentence to show your connection dropping out, 'NO CARRIER' style?
      Enquiring minds want to know!

      • by Vahokif (1292866)

        The latter I'm afraid. Nominally we have 30 mbps fiber but the pocket loss is so bad usually that it's more like 1 or 2, and Flash just gives up loading videos. Often it gets so bad I just use the 3G on my phone instead. Also, there is a 5 gig quota in the morning and a 9 gig one in the evening, which basically means Steam games have to be downloaded in two batches.

        4 of my friends are sharing 21 mbps O2 ADSL and it works fine, so we're definitely going for that next year.

  • I swear there's a joke somewhere in the headline, but I'm missing it somehow.

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurence of the improbable. - H. L. Mencken

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