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New UK Law Passed to Spread Gigabit Broadband into Big Buildings

Friday, March 5th, 2021 (8:33 am) - Score 7,656
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After a long wait the new Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill is set to become law, albeit with a few changes, after passing through parliament. The law aims to make it quicker and cheaper for “gigabit-capable” ISPs to access big blocks of flats or apartments (MDU) when “rogue landlords” fail to respond.

At present network operators (e.g. Openreach, Virgin Media, Hyperoptic, Cityfibre etc.) often run into difficulty when attempting to contact landlords, such as while requesting permission to install a new service or offering to negotiate a long-term agreement for access (wayleave). Suffice to say that an unresponsive landlord can leave residents trapped on slower connections and the process for tackling this is often shockingly expensive.

NOTE: Examples suggest that the existing process could cost £14,000 and take many months, which falls to c.£300 under the new approach that may only take a few weeks.

Admittedly some landlords do have legitimate concerns about damage to property, liability (e.g. health and safety rules) and low rental payments, among other things. Nevertheless, there are also plenty of cases where there may be no real downside to an operator wanting to improve the broadband connectivity of a building, except getting permission.

The new law seeks to tackle such issues by implementing a significantly cheaper and faster route for dispute resolution via a new tribunal process. On top of that landlords will also face a greater obligation to help facilitate the deployment of digital infrastructure when they receive a request from their tenants. But this will ONLY apply when a landlord has repeatedly failed to respond to requests for access to install a connection that a tenant within the building has requested.

Back in 2019 the government estimated that as many as 3,000 extra residential buildings (MDUs) a year could be connected as a result of this change. The UK is currently home to an estimated 480,000 blocks of flats or apartments, although many of those do have responsive landlords.

Baroness Barran, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for DCMS, said:

“This Government’s ambition is to support the delivery of fast, reliable, resilient broadband to every home and business in this country. Noble Lords will be aware—not least from our discussions during the passage of the Bill—of the myriad, complex barriers that face infrastructure deployment. There is no panacea, but the Bill provides a modest yet vital development.

Despite having once been described by the Guardian as “an obscure technical bill”, it has within its initial scope some 10 million people in the UK who live in flats and apartments. It also contains the flexibility to bring still more people into its scope in the future, such as those in office blocks and business parks, where the evidence points to it.

We expect these provisions, once commenced, to make a real difference to rollout, along with other measures we are taking forward such as mandating gigabit connectivity to new-build developments and reforms to the street-works regime so that it better supports deployment.”

In terms of changes, a few amendments were made, albeit nothing too significant. But the government did approve some tweaks in order to help clarify that people who merely rent their flat can also make use of the policy in the bill (i.e. serving the interests of tenants as well as leaseholders).

However, the Government rejected a proposal to conduct periodic reviews of the legislation after it has become law, which was intended to assess whether or not it is sufficient to support access to 1Gbps broadband in every property in the United Kingdom by 2025. One issue here, other than the fact that the 100% coverage target has now been watered down to 85% by the end of 2025, is that the Government don’t want to force everybody to only take a 1Gbps service as that may hinder some deployments and technology / ISP choices for consumers.

Otherwise, the new law represents good news for network operators, particularly those investing their own money to expand across urban areas where larger apartment blocks and high rises are much more common. However, landlords, assuming they respond, will still be able to challenge the making of such an order and so it remains to be seen how much of a difference this will make.

On top of that the Government will need to ensure that the new tribunal process has enough capacity to handle any additional workload that may come its way. Failure to do that would risk creating further delays, although Matt Warman MP (UK Minister for Digital) has previously pledged to “make sure” that the tribunal will get those resources.

The Electronic Communications Code (ECC) will also need to be amended in order to include the new process, which should happen alongside some other adjustments that are being made to the code (here). Assuming all goes to plan then these changes will help to support the Government’s new £5bn Gigabit Broadband Programme (F20).

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18 Responses
  1. Avatar BILL says:

    Its great now we need a bill to force openreach to install fibre in east Hertfordshire rurals.

    1. Avatar The Facts says:

      Why Openreach? There are many other suppliers.

    2. Avatar GNewton says:

      @TheFacts: Your question shows you don’t understand the role of BT. Perhaps you may want to catch up with Ofcom’s ‘Market power assessment’ report for a better understanding why other telecoms are not in the same starting position with regards serving premises.

    3. Avatar Peter S says:

      Yes, but very few currently have the wholesale agreements in place to allow customers to switch ISP in response to poor service, to take advantages of pricing offers or to bundle services.

      Hopefully this will change over time, but as most rural communities will only have one FTTP network built, I believe Openreach remains the network of choice for most.

    4. Avatar Fastman says:

      Bill

      your comments its great now we need a bill to force openreach to install fibre in east Hertfordshire rurals. – so if you wanted it that bad you could have co funded via Community fibre partnership scheme using vouchers — or perpahs you did and didnt like the gap and so you think it should be free Rural — is anyone else coming to your unmentioned exchange /

    5. Avatar John says:

      “Your question shows you don’t understand the role of BT. Perhaps you may want to catch up with Ofcom’s ‘Market power assessment’ report for a better understanding why other telecoms are not in the same starting position with regards serving premises.”

      Your comment shows you don’t understand how fair competition works.

      OpenReach may have significant market power, but they are still a private company that exists to make a profit.
      Having shareholders they have an obligation to do just that (to make a profit).

      You can’t just “force” them (or anyone else) to install FTTP in every random rural area.
      Doing so wouldn’t be legal or enforceable.

      That’s why public funds/subsidies exist and why we have bidding/tendering for contracts.

      If you want to force OpenReach to cover the entire country with FTTP then you need to pay them for this (with a profit).
      There will then be a queue of companies taking legal action against the government for not offering such contracts up for tender.

      The other option is to take OpenReach back in to public ownership.
      Ask Jeremy Corbyn how that last idea worked out for him.
      It would kill private investment in to digital infrastructure overnight.

      My comment would be the same as above, why OpenReach?

      Go moan at Virgin or CityFibre that you have no Ultrafast broadband.

  2. Avatar JamesW says:

    I was following this bill from pre-election and was hoping to force a directors hand in allowing HO to install. Now roll forward 16 months. I’ve been the director for 12 of them, he is now gone and HO surveyed, gave me a price which is to high. I’ve signed the wayleave to give them access when free (or affordable). 3 months since last contact even with 2-4 weeks between contacting them and no reply. Estate has now been taken off “Registering interest” but the estate next to us an L&Q serviced estate has been added to it. Even though they are serviced by VM and I can throw a paper airplane at it.

    My recent email to HO was asking if they were to install at the L&Q estate will they be doing ours to (I think its a fair question as they will have the staff available) but no answer. I’ve emailed my email chain the Customer Services but they haven’t replied either.

    1. Avatar Phil says:

      …Hyperoptic charge freeholders for build out? Is it a particularly small/remote development?

    2. Avatar JamesW says:

      It’s 40 flats over 4 buildings.
      There is a HO serviced site about 400yards up the road.
      There is an L&Q development right next to us which is marked as “Registering Interest”.
      One of my contacts at HO has finally replied and they are going to look into it. As it makes sense to knock another development out (Well that would be my thought). It’s extra numbers towards there total and investors will like that.

  3. Avatar S says:

    Is there anything in the new legislation to cap the costs the freeholder can charge for the wayleave? Our block of 12 flats has an agreed installation with G.network but the freeholder wants £3K for the wayleave including their legal fees. As the service charge fund does not currently have the money to pay for this we are currently at an impasse as the managing agents won’t currently proceed unless all flats agree to pay their £250 share of costs.

  4. Avatar Charles Smith says:

    I’ve not been able to see in reports on this new regulation/law as to whether connection refers to a Distribution Frame (in the basement) or all the way to an individual leasehold premises within the building? If I was the Landlord I would want to see delivery of service to a basement patch panel (or MDF) to deliver on to individual homes/business in the building via a structured cabling system. I wouldn’t want to see various telecomms providers stringing multiple cables throughout the building, and the consequent issues of cable removal if a service ceases.

  5. Avatar Anon-E-Mouse says:

    In two minds about this one. On the one hand, great, more proper internet for people is a great thing.

    On the other, the gov allowing telcos to force entry to install something in your building whether you want them to or not ? sounds a bit dystopian too. In some cases, saying nothing and not opening yourself up to litigation is better than responding to some requests.

  6. Avatar Dave says:

    @Fastman

    Re Openreach, there was recently a thread on ispreview about the difficulty one group were having with Community partnership
    and Openreach.
    Openreach are a monopoly due to their size and estate inherited from BT, so can at the moment do what they want.
    I know of a business who waited over a year to get connected, the voucher & the businesses’ funds sitting in the
    coffers of Openreach.
    Not a healthy situation and now with Brexit (Meaning the EU cannot assist in the matter) done, and this particular government I
    foresee no change despite lots of talk.

    1. Avatar John says:

      “I know of a business who waited over a year to get connected, the voucher & the businesses’ funds sitting in the
      coffers of Openreach.”

      Perhaps the businesses funds were sitting in the coffers of OpenReach, but the vouchers were not.
      The vouchers don’t get paid until the service is activated.

      They actually need to apply for an extension on most (or all?) of the vouchers if the service isn’t up and running within 12 months of claiming.
      It’s very much in OpenReach’s interest to get a CFP completed within 12 months.

      The fact a CFP can take over a year to complete is an odd excuse to argue against it.
      Sitting doing nothing and waiting for a rollout will surely take longer.

  7. Avatar Rahul says:

    This is great news indeed and the only way out of this vicious cycle! Because frankly there are landlords, which will never make an agreement spontaneously. They will always make excuses that “Fibre is not a priority” when in reality they just want to avoid the hassle of signing wayleave documents because it is a job that isn’t really in their interest.

    Btw, I only just stumbled across a recent newsletter a few days ago from my housing association EastEndHomes dated 24 December 2020 where they finally mention that they are looking to make an agreement on FTTP. I was very surprised to read this!

    This is the quote from the newletter… “So that residents can benefit from all that ultrafast fibre broadband offers, EastendHomes has had discussions with a number of FTTP providers, with a view to assessing whether the convenience and speed of fully fibre broadband can be brought to residents. Work on this major step forward continues, and Residents News will bring you further updates on this next year.”

    It is quite possible that they are aware of this new legislation, which is why they are going to make an agreement happen finally against their will. Honestly it should’ve happened 5-6 years ago when I kept giving them pressure but they continuously ignored. I was on an EO Line ADSL and for years I had problems with internet connection drop-outs that had no fix at all unless SNR was capped to 9dB but would only get 12Mbps. Finally FTTC came less than 2 years ago and solved the connection stability issues but even that was long delayed.

    Anyway, for now I am happy that I have FTTC and get 80/20 Mbps but then again, my authority has zero contribution for it. If they had made an agreement for FTTP 3 years ago Openreach wouldn’t have downgraded the plan to FTTC.

  8. Avatar Krzysztof Kupijaj says:

    Why only 1Gbps by the end of 2025 if on the continent you can already buy 2Gbps. If this is target for the future we will be far behind them.

    1. Avatar CarlT says:

      How many countries on the continent have 2 Gbps nationwide, please?

      You can already buy 10 Gbps here if you live in the right places and are willing to pay the right prices.

    2. Avatar Rahul says:

      Community Fibre offer 3Gbps to residents but it’s very expensive. No, we will not be behind the rest. 1Gbps is usually an indicator that there aren’t any speed limitations.

      I’m not too fazed by the 1Gbps packages only at this stage. My first interest of priority is that we all get Full Fibre and copper is eventually retired. That’s the first step to getting speeds higher up.

      Because if we don’t get the law reinforced to get FTTP, we will all be stuck with FTTC. It is FTTC that holds us back and has the speed limitations. Even at lower speeds such as 80Mbps packages, we all know FTTP is 100% guaranteed to deliver and will be more reliable whereas 80Mbps on FTTC can only serve people who are close to the cabinet and don’t have line condition issues such as noise or crosstalk.

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