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Housing developers divided on need for broadband in new homes

Wednesday, September 3rd 2014 by Hannah Langston

UK housing developers are taking inconsistent approaches to the installation of broadband infrastructure in new homes, Cable.co.uk has learnt.

Despite the government’s target for superfast broadband to be available to 95% of properties by 2017, there is no statutory requirement for developers to install broadband infrastructure in new-builds and only one of the four companies we spoke to confirmed connections were laid in all of its homes.

A spokesperson for Redrow Homes, which builds around 3,000 new properties every year, said: “We currently install telecom points in all of our homes, which includes fibre optic cables when available, which will give higher broadband speeds.

However, three of the four biggest UK developers – Barratt, Miller and Taylor Wimpey, were unclear about whether they follow a similar practice.

Taylor Wimpey, who build and sell 10,000 homes a year, told us, “If a cable provider is running cables to our development, then we will take the cables into our homes, however, we don’t install cable ducting as a rule where there is no cable provider.”

Cable.co.uk has come across several Taylor Wimpey sites where homeowners are struggling to get adequate broadband speeds.

Earlier this year, we reported residents of a Barratts Homes development in Yeovil were suffering with 1Mbps Internet connections. At the time Russell Glimstead, operations director of Barratt Exeter told us: “We have provided all facilities required by BT Openreach to supply residents with these services.

“The actual service and speeds available are the responsibility of the service provider and we have met with BT Openreach to raise the issue,” he added.

The Home Builders Federation, which counts Barratts, Taylor Wimpey, Miller and Redrow among its 150 members, agrees that broadband speeds are the responsibility of the supplier.

Dave Mitchell, Technical Director at the HBF, said, “There is no requirement to put broadband in but we do it. It’s BT that is not connecting the lines”.

However, Openreach told us their ‘new sites’ team “works hard to avoid any situation where a resident might move into their home without lines already installed, but we can sometimes encounter obstacles which affect our ability to do that.”

“These include planning procedures, the local infrastructure, the amount of civil engineering work needed and any wayleaves required to work on third party property or land.

“For these reasons, we encourage developers to work with us from the very outset of their project so that our engineers can plan, design and build the network effectively and on-time.”

According to a developers guide on the Openreach website, companies can contact the network provider during a build and request design plans for the infrastructure layout. Openreach provides the materials for the developers to lay the ducts at the property and signs off the work if completed to the required standards.

Although the majority of developers who install phone and broadband lines use Openreach, Virgin Media also offer a similar service.

A spokesperson for Miller Homes, the fourth largest provider in the UK, confirmed they installed Virgin connections on an ad-hoc basis.

“The decision to install broadband ducting in a development is taken at a local level by each of our regional businesses, and we have a non-mandatory agreement with Virgin Media in place whereby it provides this service for us when required,” they told us.

Following an EU directive, all new buildings and renovated premises must be “high speed ready” from 1 January 2017.

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