Cambridgeshire villagers unhappy with broadband cabinet header image

Residents of a Cambridgeshire village are up in arms about a large broadband cabinet that’s been installed on a footpath - after they’d been told this wasn’t going to happen.

The 5ft dark green cabinet has been placed on a footpath in Fowlmere by Connecting Cambridgeshire in partnership with Openreach, which had originally told residents that they would take care not to do so in light of concerns over the box spoiling the landscape, the Cambridge News reports.

Local councillor Peter Topping said the cabinet is “ugly and intrusive” and that it was “unacceptable” for the local community to be told one thing but see the opposite happen, regardless of the reasons for the U-turn.

A Connecting Cambridgeshire spokesperson said the decision was made to place the cabinet in its current location after three recent surveys identified it as the best spot.

"Legally, it is up to Openreach to place the cabinet safely on the public highway, taking into account the distance from the existing cabinet, power sources, avoiding underground services and pavement width,” they explained.

Cabinets like this are a common feature of traditional broadband installations and can be disruptive for rural communities in particular - making the longstanding issue of lack of internet access for remote areas especially complex.

Satellite broadband is one alternative that can both provide broadband access even in out-of-the-way locations and do away with the need to install potential eyesores in scenic places, as only a small, modern satellite dish is required.

Last year, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport launched the Cabinet Siting and Pole Siting Code of Practice to help planning and highway authorities decide where best to situate broadband infrastructure.

However, Neil Sinden, policy and campaigns director at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, responded to this by stating that “this code, along with the changed regulations, does not have sufficient teeth to prevent long lengths of new overhead lines and broadband cabinets blotting our finest landscapes and villages”.