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LGA calls on UK gov to demand fibre in new homes as standard

THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION (LGA) has called on UK gov to require that housebuilders provide fibre internet connections to new homes as standard.

At the moment, developers are only legally obliged to provide water and electricity before selling a new property, often leaving buyers the expense of arranging their own telephone and internet connections.

And 17 per cent of 2017 rural new builds are unable to achieve the government’s broadband universal service obligation’s minimum download speed of 10Mbps and upload speed of 1Mbps, which it aims to deliver by 2020, claimed the LGA.

Fibre to the premises (FTTP) connectivity can provide download speeds of up to one gigabit per second (Gbps), compared to current fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) offerings that max out at 76 megabits per second (Mbps) – realistically providing a maximum connection speed of around 50Mbps for most subscribers.

However, the government and Ofcom have been cajoling Openreach, the infrastructure arm of BT, to upgrade the ‘last mile’ across the country from copper to fibre.

Last autumn, Openreach chairman Mike McTighe told Broadband World Forum that “we are getting to the point where the copper will run out of steam” and pledged to focus on ‘full fibre’. However, he warned that this could only be done with ISP support and “increases in wholesale pricing”.

In February, the company pledged to bring FTTP broadband to three million homes by 2020, with Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester the first locations to benefit.

The costs of making the switch, though, is estimated at between £300 and £600 per premises, with a cost of £175 to £200 to connect the premises to the network.

The total cost of rolling out fibre to every household in the UK would therefore roughly be between £14.25bn to £24bn, although rolling out fibre to areas outside major towns and cities could raise this total even higher.

The LGA, though, wants the government to do more to press the builders of new homes to install fibre as standard, rather than wasting resources providing copper-based connections that will only be ripped out in a few years.

“While the government’s new draft of the National Planning Policy Framework aims to help councils’ encourage developers to provide FTTP connections to existing and new developments it does not give them powers to hold developers to account,” said the LGA.

It claimed that introducing a new FTTP kitemark would provide a simple, common-sense proposal that will make it clear to the public whether or not a new home has a “fully future-proofed internet connection”.

Councillor Mark Hawthorne, chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board, said: “The standard of digital connectivity we provide to our new build homes should reflect our national ambition to roll out world-class digital infrastructure across the country.

“Residents will no longer tolerate digital connectivity taking a back seat in developers’ plans.” µ

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