Broadband poles can remain, judge rules

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 August, 2011, 12:00am


Optical fibre broadband will be able to reach old buildings across the city after a court quashed a government decision ordering the provider to remove poles it had erected to align the system.

Hong Kong Broadband Network had installed the 491 poles mainly in Central and Wan Chai but had never used them because of the order from the Director of Highways.

It is now free to do so after a Court of First Instance judge ruled that the director had not given reasons why all the poles should be removed and that the decision was unreasonable and should be quashed.

The company said after the judgment that no existing customers would be affected, as the poles had never been used but the decision was important as it meant residents of old buildings where the network's switchboxes could not be installed would be able to receive the service.

'We have explored the possibilities of using existing street furniture like lamp poles to mount telecommunications facilities for the provision of [fixed telecommunications network] services to the public, which would have been more cost-effective and efficient but the suggestion was not accepted,' it said in a prepared statement. 'Erecting our own poles was the last resort to achieve extensive service coverage.'

In his 35-page written decision Judge Thomas Au Hing-cheung said the Director of Highways must give his reasons why all the poles must be removed.

'He has not done so in the present case,' Au said. 'There are no reasons given in the relevant decisions as to why all the poles must be removed.'

The government said it would study the verdict before deciding on further action.

Hong Kong Broadband Network was granted a fixed telecommunications network licence in 2003 to build its own fibre-optic network.

But the Director of Lands and the Director of Highways had the authority to require the company to demolish any structures on unleased land in urban areas, the judgment said.

The company carried out excavation works at 491 locations across Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon and put up its own pole at each location.

But the Director of Highways and the Director of Lands made a number of orders between March 9 and August 27 last year ordering the company to remove the poles.

The firm took both departments to court to challenge their decisions by lodging a judicial review at a two-day hearing.