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Gigabit broadband now a legal requirement for new UK homes

House builders in England will have to ensure that new properties are equipped with the means to access ultrafast Internet services.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on Friday announced amendments to Building Regulations 2010 – the law that governs the construction and modification of buildings – that introduce a requirement for new properties to be fitted with the infrastructure and connections necessary to provide owners with Gigabit-capable broadband upon completion.

According to data from the Office for National Statistic (ONS), during the 12 months to March 31st 2022, the construction of 171,190 homes in England was completed. However, according to government data, in a typical year, only 12 percent of new homes have Gigabit broadband access upon completion. It is stats like these that give an idea as to how these amendments stand to significantly ramp up availability of services like fibre-to-the-home (FTTH).

To make sure the tweaked legislation doesn’t lead to spiralling costs for housebuilders, connection costs will be capped at £2,000 per property. It will be up to developers to hammer out the details with telcos.

DCMS claims 98 percent of premises will fall within this cap, but in cases where it is not possible to secure a Gigabit-capable connection within the price cap, developers will be required to install the next-fastest option. And even when a Gigabit connection isn’t achievable within the cap, new properties still need to come with the necessary ducts, chambers and termination points so they can easily be upgraded in future.

The amendments for new homes follows legislation that came into force in 2021 that makes it easier for telcos to gain access to blocks of flats. The Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Act (TILPA) gives operators the option to go through the courts if a landlord doesn’t respond to requests to access their property.

Until TILPA, broadband providers needed to obtain permission, either from the landowner or a court, before installing equipment in multi-dwelling units (MDUs). That would be fine, except that – according to DCMS – 40 percent of access requests from telcos receive no response.

Under TILPA, landlords still have to request permission, but if they don’t hear anything in 35 days, they can pursue court-ordered permission instead. DCMS reckons that TILPA will lead to an additional 2,100 residential buildings per year will be connected to Gigabit networks. At the moment, the law only applies in England and Wales, but it is due to go into effect in Scotland this summer.

“Nothing should stop people from seizing the benefits of better broadband, whether it is an unresponsive landlord or a property developer’s failure to act,” said digital infrastructure minister Julia Lopez, in a statement. “Thanks to our new laws, millions of renters will no longer be prevented from getting a broadband upgrade due to the silence of their landlord, and those moving into newly built homes can be confident they’ll have access to the fastest speeds available from the day they move in.”

The regulatory framework also complement’s Project Gigabit, the UK government’s £5 billion scheme to connect hard-to-reach areas to Gigabit-capable networks. It aims to cover 85 percent of the UK by 2025, reaching close to 100 percent as soon as possible thereafter. In its most recent update in November, the government said it has 16 live procurement contracts covering 545,000 premises, and worth a total of more than £780 million.

 

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