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New Rules for Utility Firms to Benefit UK FTTP Broadband Rollout

Friday, May 13th, 2022 (8:43 am) - Score 4,152
Red Road Closed road sign in a UK city street.

The Government has announced changes that are designed to improve the quality of street works, not least through more inspections, better quality resurfacing and tougher fines for poor quality road works and leaving behind potholes. But the new rules also include changes to help support the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband.

At present commercial telecommunications companies alone are collectively investing tens of billions of pounds to help extend the coverage of Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) and other gigabit-capable fixed line broadband ISP network technologies, which look set to reach over 80% of UK premises (currently north of 65%) by around the end of 2025.

The Government are also working to boost this via their £5bn Project Gigabit rollout, which aims to ensure that a minimum of 85%+ of UK premises can access a gigabit-capable connection by the end of 2025, before possibly reaching “nationwide” (c.99%) coverage by the end of 2030 (here and here).

The government states that road works by telecoms companies currently account for one third of all works, and the number of works needed to further roll-out broadband is estimated to triple over the next few years – due to the aforementioned investment.

In keeping with this, new laws have today been announced that are primarily intended to “crack down on companies” that are said to be creating a “plague of potholes“. Some would say that underinvestment in repairs by the government and local authorities has also contributed to this problem, yet that’s a different debate. But the announcement also includes changes to “help speed-up broadband rollout nationwide and ease congestion“.

The Broadband Tweaks

The announcement itself doesn’t provide much detail on the changes for broadband related civil engineering, but we do get these titbits.

Broadband Related Rule Changes (Street Works)

➤ Plans unveiled today will also help telecoms operators rollout broadband nationwide and ease congestion by mandating live updates on roadworks are improved.

➤ Plans will also help speed up broadband rollout across the country, through exemptions to restrictions on works for new customer connections. One third of all road works are carried out by telecoms operators. The government will allow exemptions to restrictions which prevent or slow down these companies applying to carry out necessary works.

Curiously, the announcement doesn’t actually reference the source for these changes (legislative or otherwise), but we suspect that it may flow from last year’s consultation on street and road works reforms (here). The consultation made some vague references to the need for real-time updates on such works (i.e. the times when work will start and finish – to be distributed to driver sat nav systems etc.), as well as plans to inspect 100% of works after completion (highways authorities currently check less than a third).

The proposed regulatory improvements in that consultation also included allowing the use of flexi permits, which it said would “increase efficiencies for both utilities (all types and not just telecoms companies) and highway authorities“. For example, there would be reduced administrative burdens, better coordination and planning and more flexibility in terms of carrying out minor and standard works.

The new type of flexi permit would apparently cover a number of standard and minor works in a certain area for a period of time; requiring works start and stop notices to be sent within 2 hours at weekends, and on all days by highway authorities; and amendments to inspections to simplify the rules and target poor performers. The intended effects are time savings to businesses and highway authorities from simpler and clear regulation, not to mention traffic and cost congestion savings by reducing the number of non-compliant works.

Baroness Vere, Roads Minister, said:

“I’m sure all drivers have felt frustrated by the potholes we see on some of our roads, which can damage our vehicles and make journeys a misery. That’s why we’re changing the law to ensure companies won’t be able to get away with poor quality road works for much longer.

The changes we’re bringing in will also help to keep motorists updated with live traffic updates – easing congestion. This is a clear victory for motorists and all road users who will be able to enjoy smoother, safer journeys.”

However, we would have liked to see the public being given more access to the performance details for utility firms (e.g. naming and shaming those that significantly underperform), but for the time being this kind of information is still considered “commercially sensitive” and so we won’t be told who has been hit with the new fines. But significant failings do still have a tendency to make their way into the public domain.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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1 Response
  1. Frank Butcher says:

    Fairly standard fare from this Government, lots of soundbites but no actual detail.

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