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Gigabit Broadband

Volume 673: debated on Tuesday 17 March 2020

This Government have ambitious plans to achieve nationwide roll-out of future-proof gigabit broadband as soon as possible. Delivering these ambitions will unlock huge economic and social benefits for all members of society.

The provision of gigabit-capable connectivity to new build developments is a crucial element of meeting our ambitious broadband targets. Ensuring virtually all new homes, rural and urban, are built with the future in mind, ready to support the next generation of digital infrastructure, is vitally important. My Department consulted on delivering gigabit-capable connections to all new build developments across the UK in 2018.

Today I am pleased to inform members that we have published the Government response to this consultation.

This response announces that the Government will require developers in England to install gigabit-capable infrastructure and, subject to a cost cap, a gigabit-capable connection. To do this, we will use existing powers in the Building Act 1984 to amend the Building Regulations 2010 to mandate that:

Developers ensure new homes have gigabit broadband. This includes ensuring that the physical infrastructure necessary for gigabit-capable connections is provided on site for all new build developments and that the home is connected by an operator to a gigabit-capable connection.

The requirement on the developer to provide a gigabit-capable connection exists unless the cost to the developer of providing connectivity exceeds £2,000, or the operator declines to provide a connection.

Developers must seek a second quote from network operators, where the first quote suggests that gigabit-capable broadband cannot be installed within the cost cap.

If gigabit broadband exceeds the cost cap, the developer must provide connectivity to other technologies which can provide at least superfast connection1 within the same cost cap, unless the operator declines to provide a connection.

This will establish a system that provides a clear and simple process for developers to comply with, limiting the administrative burden on developers to a minimum and gives a clear point in time for submission of evidence.

Implementing through the Building Regulations 2010 will also remove the six to nine month period that would have been required for primary legislation, speeding up the implementation of this policy. It allows us to proceed immediately to secondary legislation, which would have been required in all circumstances in any case. We will bring forward this legislation as soon as possible in this parliamentary session.

This is not to say that network operators do not have a key role in this area or that Government will not hold them to account to ensure that they deliver gigabit-capable connections. Government are looking to secure commitments from network operators to contribute to the costs of connecting new builds. We have been in active conversations with a number of network operators on this topic and have already secured commitments from Openreach and Virgin Media. Virgin Media will contribute at least £500, rising in the case of some larger sites to £1,000. Openreach has also committed to a combined Openreach and developer contribution of £3,400, with a maximum developer contribution of £2,000.

We have had initial discussions on similar commitments with smaller network operators and will seek to formalise more commitments in advance of this legislation coming into force.

As building standards are a devolved matter, these proposed amendments will apply in England only. However, as the provision of gigabit-capable connections to new homes is a priority for all of us across the whole of the UK, my officials will continue to work closely with the devolved Administrations to ensure this policy is implemented in a consistent manner across the UK.

1 that is a connection with speeds of at least 24 Mbps