The BT broadband boxes that have muzzled the Muswell Hill fibre trial
If you'd been reading the headlines about BT's fibre optic trial in Muswell Hill, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the project had been completely 'halted', or that the trial was moving to Glasgow.
And so you'd be very surprised to see a huge amount of marketing material in the area promoting the 40Mbps trial as up and running.
Haringey Council has intervened on behalf of some Muswell Hill residents to stop BT progressing with the installation of the equipment - increasing the reputation of the area for NIMBY-ism. The Londonist was moved to write:
"BT insist they'll be back; they may need to prepare to brave a running battle between pitchfork-and-flaming-torch wielding conservators and affronted internet nerds."
However, it doesn't mean that the whole trial has been 'halted'. BT have commenced the service in most of the area they intended - but it seems that one or two roads in the Fortis Green Conservation area are holding out.
In a piece on the Your Local London Muswell Hill blog, Vesna attempted to set the record straight, quoting John Crompton, treasurer of the Muswell Hill and Fortis Green Association. He stressed four areas of concern, including BT not seeking permission in advance of installing the new cabinets, the size of the cabinets, the location of the cabinets, and the 'cumulative effect' of having lots of cabinets. He complains about some specific locations:
"on a narrow pavement or busy pavement such as the one outside the church at the end of Tetherdown"
I was interested to find out how intrusive these boxes were, so I went to the junction of Tetherdown to see it for myself. You can see here that the larger BT box is in the foreground, with the existing telephony equipment housed further back on the other side of the pavement.
Whilst the box is undoubtedly bigger, it doesn't, in all honesty, look like it would block the pavement or cause access problems for anybody. You can judge the scale from this picture of someone having just walked past it.
BT explain that the reason the larger boxes are necessary is because they have to be powered, to step-down the signal from the fibre-optic cable to one that can be transmitted over the copper leading to the house.
I must confess that having actually seen the boxes, I think the fuss is over the top. Whilst they are bigger than existing BT boxes, they are not particularly additionally intrusive. In terms of taking up space on the pavement, their width is about the same. The resident's association idea that perhaps they should be 'buried underground' is, frankly, laughable - having to dig up the pavement every time the equipment needed to be maintained would surely be a greater source of inconvenience.
However, where I do have some sympathy with the residents is that the impact of the trial does not seem to have been widely discussed. In the Muswell Hill Journal, John Crompton says:
"If this trial is a success does this mean every street in Britain will have these great big cabinets blocking people's paths?"