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New builds to have mandatory gigabit broadband infrastructure

Housing developers will soon be forced to ensure that new homes come with gigabit-speed broadband connections, under new government requirements.

At present, one in five new-build are constructed without gigabit-speed connections, mostly in smaller developments where the cost can be higher or network operators have not had the time to build connections.

The new measures follow Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge last year that full fibre broadband would be rolled out across the UK by 2025. Some MPs warned said the pledge did not take into account the full extent of the digital divide between rural and urban areas.

The move will mean developers will be legally required to install high-quality digital infrastructure from the outset; make it a development priority; and ensure broadband companies are on board before the first brick is laid.

Building regulations will be overhauled to guarantee gigabit broadband in new homes. Housing developers will be expected to work with network operators to install internet speeds of over 1,000 megabits per second (Mbps) up to a cost cap of £2,000 per dwelling.

“This legislation means every new home will be built fit for the future and give people access to world-class broadband speeds from the moment they move in,” said Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden. “It’s all part of our plan to deliver on our commitment to give everyone in the UK access to gigabit broadband, as we connect and level up the country.”

Rules were also put in place earlier this year to force landlords to cooperate with telecoms firms in order to improve their access to buildings to carry out infrastructure works.

Legislation will be put before MPs as soon as parliamentary time allows, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) said.

With building regulations under the control of devolved governments, legislative amendments to the Building Regulations 2010 will apply to England only.However, the Government said it would work with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to ensure similar implementations of the bill across the UK.

“We are building more new homes than at any time in the last 30 years and helping more people to get on to the ladder,” said Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick. “We want to ensure those new homes are high quality and fit for the future.”

“Today’s announcement will deliver internet speeds 200 times faster than you would need to watch an HD film on Netflix.”

To make sure developers are incentivised to follow the plans, the government has worked with operators to secure significant new commitments that they will contribute to the costs of installing gigabit broadband in new-build homes.

Virgin Media will contribute at least £500, up to £1,000 on some larger sites. Openreach has committed to a combined contribution with developers of £3,400, with a maximum developer contribution of £2,000.

The government expects to have agreement from other operators in the coming weeks. “We welcome the Government’s announcement that all new-build homes will be required to have the infrastructure to support gigabit-capable connections, and we will work closely with government and housebuilders on the best way to deliver this,” said Clive Selley, chief executive of Openreach.

Lutz Schuler, chief executive of Virgin Media, said: “By busting these broadband barriers, Government and industry can work together and ensure new homes are no longer left behind in the gigabit broadband revolution.”

In January Openreach said it would expand its full-fibre network out to include an additional 250,000 UK homes and businesses by March next year.

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