It’s more fun when people watch.
Installing modern broadband infrastructure in newly built housing developments often involves a dance between developers, who increasingly want reimbursement for what they believe to be the full cost, and service providers, who want it as cheap as possible and might not be very interested in the first place.
It’s usually a private negotiation, with the results becoming apparent only after people start moving in. In Gonzales, California for example (full disclosure: the City of Gonzales is a client of mine) new housing developments have been left with conduit installed for cable broadband service but never used. In more affluent, nearby communities, on the other hand, fiber is routinely run directly to new homes.
Cities (and counties in unincorporated areas) have some control over what gets built, but not necessarily how it’s eventually used. The City of Brentwood, in Contra Costa County, requires new homes to be connected to two separate conduit systems, one that’s intended for cable service and the other that’s deeded over to the city. Brentwood put its municipal conduit to good use by cutting a deal with an independent Internet service provider, Sonic.net, to install a fiber to the home system. But it had the advantage of a 15 year head start that resulted in the construction of a critical mass of fiber ready homes.
For smaller – and more typical – developments, it’s a different story. Local governments can’t require telecoms companies to disclose their intentions to prospective buyers.
When regulations are necessary, there are good arguments for uniformity: the Internet can’t operate on the basis of patchwork, local rules. But open access to information and published standards are also fundamental Internet principles. Service providers’ and developers’ terms and intentions should have the same level of public visibility as that required of construction plans.
British Telecom is putting its cards on the table for real estate developers (and prospective home buyers) to see. The company has been criticised for not providing fast broadband service to new housing developments. There’s been plenty of finger pointing and blame shifting along the way, with no easy way to tell why some homes get service and some don’t. That’s changing now.
If developers disclose their plans at least nine months (ideally, more) before the first residents are expected to move in, BT will provide…
- Confirmation of whether or not the site is covered by existing [fiber to the cabinet/node] infrastructure, which will be connected for free. New Infrastructure is required to serve new sites of 100 or more new homes in all cases as such these are deemed outside of existing coverage.
- The option of new Fibre Broadband Infrastructure based on a Developer Contribution (if applicable and where there is no existing infrastructure)
- Clarity and certainty of the costs to connect a site outside of existing Fibre coverage
- The expected broadband speed range based on copper infrastructure, should the developer not wish to take up the option of FTTC infrastructure.
If a new development won’t be covered by existing infrastructure and BT won’t pay the full cost of building new facilities (the minimum for that is 250 units, according to a British broadband blog), developers will have the choice of paying the tab or settling for old school copper. Whether you think this approach is one-sided or not, at least everyone’s terms, intentions and responsibilities are open to public view.
Telecoms regulation in the U.K. is very different than what we have in California, particularly when BT is involved. It’s Britain’s legacy (and formerly government owned) monopoly telephone company and is more tightly regulated than U.S. carriers. But those are government-sanctioned monopolies/duopolies too. Requiring them to similarly post terms and conditions, and set clear and uniform procedures for developers and local governments to assess and follow, or not, at their discretion is just as necessary.