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'Almost impossible' to find out if new-build homes will have decent broadband

Tuesday, June 23rd 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

It is “almost impossible” for people moving into new-build houses to find out what broadband service they are going to get, according to the man heading up Hampshire’s superfast rollout.

Glenn Peacey, programme manager for the Hampshire Superfast Broadband programme, said consumers deserve to know what coverage is going to be achieved in their area.

Hampshire County Council is calling on the government to give local authorities the power to insist that new-build homes have access to high speed broadband.

The council is also going to publish a list of which new housing sites are looking to provide superfast broadband and recommend that internet speeds are checked as part of house purchases.

Mr Peacey said the market could be helped if consumers had better information about coverage at a postcode level.

“At the moment that’s really difficult to provide,” he told Cable.co.uk.

“BT’s checkers are quite good but they’re not very good. In terms of what’s coming in the future it’s really difficult to check, so if you’re moving into a new-build site, how do you check? It’s almost impossible.”

'On the edge of town'

He said Hampshire County Council wants central government to give councils the power to enforce superfast infrastructure as part of a planning condition.

“At the moment they can’t do that, so you can’t throw out a planning application because there isn’t any broadband infrastructure,” he said.

“You probably can if they’ve not put any water in, but you can’t if it’s going to be for broadband, so you can only encourage them to do it.

“We need something a bit more concrete than that.”

Mr Peacey, speaking at last week’s Connected Britain conference in London, said installing broadband infrastructure becomes a complicated process if it is not done at an early stage.

He gave the example of an 800-home new-build estate near Andover.

“Nobody arranged any infrastructure at all, so it’s just got phones, that’s it.

“And it’s so far away from the exchange, as most new estates are because they’re on the edge of the town.

“There’s nothing there, so as a result they had to get into quite complex negotiations between BT Openreach and the developer to get them to pay to retrofit and install a superfast service, which takes ages and could have been done at the time.

'Last minute'

“And it potentially costs more. If they’d talked to [infrastructure provider] GTC or Virgin and had a cable infrastructure put in at the time they’d built the properties, that could have reduced the cost massively.”

Mr Peacey said change is being driven by consumers refusing to move in to new-build properties without broadband access.

“So now [developers] are waking up and saying ‘crikey, we’d better make sure [that] along with a nice bathroom and a nice kitchen it’s got decent internet’.

“It’s becoming one of those consumable items that you automatically assume is going to be there and in fact you might make a choice on.”

Hampshire County Council is keen to give consumers everything they need to make an informed choice and help drive the market, Mr Peacey said.

“Because it’s not actually very expensive to deliver, for the builder, if they do it early on because some suppliers will install it for free.

“It’s not particularly a problem for them if they plan it early and put it in.

“But if they leave it until the last minute and they’ve already laid the roads and they’ve put the pavements in then it becomes a really expensive thing to do afterwards.”

Additional reporting by Ellen Branagh.

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