New UK laws to see homeowners, tenants get better access to fast broadband

UK government mandates that almost all new homes in England must be built with gigabit broadband connections during construction, making it easier for homebuyers, renters and some leaseholders to upgrade to ultrafast services

Despite the undoubted progress in the deployment of ultrafast broadband across the UK over the past few years, a number of key stumbling blocks still exist, not least the problem of unresponsive landlords preventing tenants from receiving faster connections.

To address this, the UK government has brought into force new laws to ensure new homes in England are built with gigabit broadband connections and to allow telecoms firms to get faster broadband to nine million people living in blocks of flats.

The intended aim is to ensure that new homes constructed in England will be fitted with infrastructure and connections capable of delivering gigabit broadband, which, according to the annual Connected nations report from communications regulator Ofcom, is available to over three-quarters of the UK.

In addition, data referenced in the UK government’s technical consultation surrounding the new legislation suggested that approximately 12% – around 25,300 – of new homes still did not have access to a full-fibre connection in a typical year.

The updated regulations – achieved through the amendment of the Building Regulations 2010 Act – mean more people moving into new homes will have a gigabit-capable broadband connection ready when construction is completed, avoiding the need for installation work after the home is built and enabling residents to arrange their preferred internet service at the point they move in.

The updated building rules mean 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 the UK government envisages a scenario where they work together with network operators to connect developments to a gigabit network. The UK government estimates over 98% of premises fall within this cap, and claims that its move will mean moving into a new-build property without ultra-fast internet speeds will become a thing of the past for the vast majority of people across England.

Where a developer is unable to secure a gigabit-capable connection within the cost cap, they are obliged to install the next fastest connection available. Where a gigabit-capable connection is not available within the cost cap, gigabit-ready infrastructure, such as ducts, chambers and termination points, will still need to be installed.

In what is regarded as 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. The Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Act, 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.

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.

It will prevent situations where a tenant is unable to receive a service simply due to inaction on behalf 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.

The UK government noted that broadband companies to date find around two-fifths of their requests for access to install connections receive no response. 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. 

“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 UK digital infrastructure minister Julia Lopez. “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 new process to allow telecoms and broadband providers to gain access to premises where a service is requested in England and Wales will also come into force in Scotland in the summer.

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