from the if-you-build-it-they-will-come dept
England has taken a big step toward crushing the digital divide with new rules requiring that all new home builds must include gigabit (1000 Megabits per second, Mbps) broadband. Estimates suggest that around 12 percent of the 171,190 new homes constructed in England last year didn’t have gigabit broadband capabilities upon completion.
Amendments to Building Regulations 2010 require that all new builds have gigabit-capable connections, though there is a construction cost cap of £2,000 per home. According to the government’s new guidance, if a gigabit line can’t be found within that price range, the next-fastest speed available has to suffice.
I’m not sure this will be quite as transformative as headlines suggest. Readying a home for gigabit broadband isn’t the same thing as actually delivering gigabit broadband. It can often cost users tens of thousands of dollars (sometimes hundreds of thousands) to get ISPs to expand “last mile” access to your home. Still, mandating that new homes are gigabit ready is useful.
The new laws also make it easier for ISPs to gain access to homes or apartments for broadband installs should landlords prove unresponsive:
Previously, tenants living in the UK’s estimated 480,000 blocks of flats and apartments (also known as multi-dwelling units, or MDUs) would usually have had to wait for a landlord’s permission to have a broadband operator enter their building to install a faster connection. These access rights are essential for the delivery of broadband upgrades as operators are unable to deploy their services without first obtaining permission, either from the landowner or a court, to install their equipment.
Like here in the States, there’s an awful lot of shenanigans where ISPs work in concert with landlords to block access to competitors. It’s taken the FCC here in the States decades and numerous rule revisions to even try and tackle that problem. But it remains very much a work in progress, as deep-pocketed telecom monopolies and their lawyers often tap dance around the requirements.
While many landlords are annoying and difficult, telecom giants often like to over-state landlords’ role in the overall lack of quality broadband deployments. That was evident in New York City, where Verizon flaked on a 2008 agreement to wire the whole city with fiber, then repeatedly tried to exclusively blame landlords for the company’s own (well in character) failure to follow through on the agreement.
There are other policies that are common sensical that we just don’t do because it would (gasp) make it easier to drive competition into monopoly markets. Such as “dig once” requirements that all new highway builds come with fiber-ready conduit already installed. This sort of policy is a no brainer, yet in the U.S. meaningful mandates on this front always seem stuck just around the next corner.