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Independent networks chief hails EU superfast broadband ruling

Wednesday, May 28th 2014 by Hannah Langston

The chief executive of the Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA) has welcomed a new EU directive to make all new builds and renovated properties “high speed ready” by 1 January 2017.

The ruling aims to reduce the cost of high-speed broadband installations by allowing internet providers to access utility infrastructure such as electricity and water company’s networks, as well as that of existing providers.

INCA chief executive Malcolm Corbett, left, described the measure as “broadly helpful”, but others suggested market forces were already achieving the same goals.

Mr Corbett told Cable.co.uk: “Measures that encourage infrastructure sharing and re-use can have a useful impact,” he said. “Infrastructure sharing can encourage investment and innovation”.

INCA was set up in 2010 to help bring together the large number of small projects being set up around the UK to implement superfast broadband in areas not covered by existing or planned commercial networks.

However, the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), which is overseeing the rollout of superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by 2017 told us: “How useful this measure will be in reducing the cost of broadband deployment will depend on the demand for sharing and the availability of suitable infrastructure.”

The UK government abstained from the EU vote but has previously passed similar proposals. Last year providers were given freedom to build new telegraph poles and broadband cabinets until 2017.

A spokesperson from the House Builders Federation told us most new developments already include such infrastructure and builders will continue to ensure this: “House builders want to make sure all new homes have every facility available to meet consumers' needs. The industry will be working with government and other parties, and ensuring it does all it can to meet requirements.”

Property expert Henry Pryor echoed the group’s statement, “House builders and developers recognise the importance that 21st connectivity has for those buying a new home - many of whom regard internet access as the Forth Utility after gas, water and electricity.”

“Access to the world wide web, for social and business reasons is rapidly becoming something that buyers and, interestingly, tenants expect so many sellers and landlords are getting ahead.”

The EU directive includes introducing a voluntary ‘broadband-ready’ label for high-speed buildings, which could be used by developers and estate agents.

According to Mr Pryor, houses that “are ready for the 21st century usually achieve a higher selling price because buyers are prepared to pay for this essential service.”

The UK will be able to exempt developers from the obligations where the cost of compliance would be disproportionate. Special buildings such as monuments or military structures will also be excluded.

The HBF also told us: “We cannot allow desperately needed new home building to be delayed, ” which may be a risk if developers or infrastructure providers raise an objection to network installations.

The directive will apply to building permits submitted after 31 December 2016, but developers may have to wait for the British Parliament to define what precise permits the rules refer to.

The UK must make provisions to comply with the new directive by 1 January 2016, and the new measures must be applied from 1 July 2016.

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