Government announces legislation to connect more people to faster broadband

Article Posted -
09 Oct 2019

The Government announced today a new law that will ensure the 9 million people living in blocks of flats aren’t left behind in the nationwide upgrade to gigabit speed broadband. 

It’s estimated that an extra 3,000 residential buildings each year will be connected, particularly in blocks of flats where landlords repeatedly ignore requests for access from broadband firms. Broadband companies must get permission from the building’s owners to enter the property and undertake the works.  

Landlords’ failure to respond to requests for access is on the biggest obstacles preventing this work from happening. This means that a large number of tenants are missing out on gigabit-capable broadband, and is not a problem for individual houses. 

The Government’s plan is to create a cheaper, faster process for broadband companies to get access rights. This will apply when a landlord has repeatedly failed to respond to access requests that a tenant within the building has asked for. These requests will be escalated to the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber), lowering the timescale to enter a property from six months to weeks, and reduce the cost. Landlords will retain the right to refuse access, but must respond to requests. 

The Government will set out a clear process that operators need to follow to demonstrate their repeated attempts at engagement with a landlord before being able to apply for access rights. They also intend to legislate so that - once such rights are ordered by the Upper Tribunal or equivalent in devolved administrations - landlords will also be able to challenge the making of such an order. 

What this means for you 

If you own a block of flats, you should respond to requests for access as quickly as possible and keep a record of any communication with the broadband company. 

If you own a flat or flats within a block, communicate with your tenants about their needs for gigabit-capable broadband and let them know that you’re happy for it to be installed. 

The NLA’s view 

Meera Chindooroy, the NLA’s Policy and Public Affairs Manager, says: 

“Access to fast broadband is something that is seen as standard by tenants, so landlords should work with broadband companies to get this installed in all of their properties as soon as possible. 

“We have been working with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to ensure that this legislation is suitable for all landlords, ensuring their rights are protected whilst also facilitating upgraded infrastructure which will have a positive impact on their businesses.” 

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