England: Gigabit broadband connections to be made compulsory in new homes

England: Gigabit broadband connections to be made compulsory in new homes

Almost all new homes in England must be built with gigabit broadband connections during construction under new laws brought into force by the UK Government.

Ministers have amended the Building Regulations 2010 to ensure that home developers will be legally required to future-proof new homes in England for next-generation gigabit broadband as standard practice during construction.

Connection costs will be capped at £2,000 per home for developers and they will work together with network operators to connect developments to the gigabit network. It is estimated over 98% of premises fall within this cap.

Where a developer is unable to secure a gigabit-capable connection within the cost cap, developers must install the next fastest connection available.

And even where a gigabit-capable connection is not available within the cost cap, gigabit-ready infrastructure, such as ducts, chambers and termination points, still needs to be installed. This will ensure that homes are fit for the digital age but may not be connected straight away.

In a further boost to people’s access to better broadband, another new law has made it easier to install faster internet connections in blocks of flats when landlords repeatedly ignore requests for access from broadband firms.

Previously, tenants living in the UK’s estimated 480,000 blocks of flats and apartments (also known as multi-dwelling units, or MDUs) would usually have had to wait for a landlord’s permission to have a broadband operator enter their building to install a faster connection. These access rights are essential for the delivery of broadband upgrades as operators are unable to deploy their services without first obtaining permission, either from the landowner or a court, to install their equipment.

Broadband companies have said around 40% of their requests for access to install connections receive no response, which means they may lose out on the revolutionary benefits of faster speeds.

Now, providers in England and Wales will be able to seek rights to access a property or shared land if the person required to grant access is unresponsive. The law does this by creating a new route through the courts that operators can use to access blocks of flats and apartments.

The Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Act (TILPA), now in force in England and Wales, makes it easier for broadband providers to gain access to install equipment in blocks of flats, when a faster connection is requested by a tenant. It is estimated that an extra 2,100 residential buildings a year will be connected as a result.

It will prevent situations where a tenant is unable to receive a service simply due to the silence of a landlord. From the point where a company makes the first request to the landlord, it will take 35 days for this new rule to kick in.

Digital infrastructure minister Julia Lopez said: “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.

“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.”

Cllr Mark Hawthorne, digital connectivity spokesperson for the Local Government Association, responded: “Gigabit-capable internet connections in every new build home in England will help bridge the digital divide and futureproof our communities, given the essential need for access to high-speed, reliable broadband.

“Councils have been urging developers to install the best possible access to the internet in new builds and this legal change will make all the difference, along with supporting tenants in existing blocks of flats to get the fastest connections. The government should also continue efforts to ensure all existing properties have access to the fastest possible broadband.

“While this law will help get more people on better broadband faster, there still remains a substantial gap in gigabit coverage when comparing densely populated towns and cities to our villages and more remote areas.

“The £2,000 cost cap covering the new scheme will have to be kept under review, so that new builds in rural areas are not disproportionately excluded from being able to get faster internet speeds.”

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