Broadband development game revealed to U.K. home buyers and local councils

5 March 2016 by Steve Blum
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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.