The Local Government Association (LGA) has thrown its weight behind a proposed kitemark for fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband services to reassure buyers of new-build homes in rural areas that their property will have a fit-for-purpose ultrafast broadband connection.
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“Connecting our rural residents to future-proofed, fast and reliable broadband is vital to helping them get on in life and benefit from the advantages that decent digital connectivity can bring,” said Mark Hawthorne, chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board, and a Gloucestershire County councillor.
“The standard of digital connectivity we provide to our new-build homes should reflect our national ambition to roll out world-class digital infrastructure across the country. Residents will no longer tolerate digital connectivity taking a backseat in developers’ plans.”
The provision of broadband to newly built properties has long been a source of contention around the UK because unlike more established utilities, such as water and electricity, there is still no obligation on developers to connect a broadband service before selling a property.
This situation persists in spite of an agreement struck two years ago between the government, the Home Builders’ Federation, and Openreach, to make it easier to deploy FTTP – also known as full-fibre – broadband in new-build homes, and subsequent commitments by Openreach to build full-fibre networks for free on qualifying developments.
In rural parts of England, things are even worse. According to recent analysis conducted by ThinkBroadband, only 32% of properties built in 2017 are connected to FTTP, and 17% are unable to access a service that meets the incoming Universal Service Obligation (USO) of 10Mbps.
Although the government’s National Planning Policy Framework sets out aims to help local authorities encourage property developers to build FTTP connections as standard, the LGA said there were still no legal powers to hold developers to account should they fail to do so.
The organisation said an FTTP kitemark would be a simple and common-sense measure to make it clear to the general public that their new homes will have a future-proof internet connection.
“We call on the government, homebuilders and the broadband industry to work with us and develop the details of this proposal and give homebuyers the confidence to invest in a new home, knowing they won’t be stuck in the digital slow lane,” said Hawthorne.
Mark Collins, director of strategy and policy at full-fibre specialist CityFibre, said access to FTTP was a massive economic benefit and could add significant value to residential property (up to £7bn nationally between now and 2033). In the US, the Fibre-to-the-Home Council has claimed that rolling out full-fibre to just 50% of premises in a given area can result in a 1.1% uplift in annual GDP.
“Full-fibre is the only infrastructure capable of delivering the reliable gigabit speed services and future-proofed capacity the UK needs. We fully support the LGA’s call for the launch of a FTTP kitemark, which will give full-fibre – the gold standard in internet connectivity – the status and recognition it deserves,” said Collins.
“Consumers have been misled for decades by advertising practices which allow copper-based broadband products to be advertised as ‘fibre’. The introduction of a kitemark, however, will help consumers know what they are paying for and what standard they should expect,” he added.