Greater access to water and sewer networks could help gigabit broadband rollout

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Easier access to water and sewer networks could be enforced to help the rollout of gigabit broadband, under new Government plans.

Broadband firms could be granted greater entry to more than a million kilometres of underground utility ducts, under a review of current regulations to boost infrastructure sharing for broadband companies.

Ministers are looking into opening up access for broadband operators, so their equipment can be carried through “passive” infrastructure owned and used by other telecoms companies, such as utility ducts, poles, masts, pipes, inspection chambers, manholes, cabinets, and antenna installations.

But they are also exploring ways to make it easier for firms to run broadband cables through electricity, gas, water and sewer networks across the UK.

It is hoped changes could save time and money in rolling out gigabit-capable broadband, as works such as installing new ducts and poles can make up to 80% of the costs.

“It makes both economic and common sense for firms rolling out gigabit broadband to make use of the infrastructure that already exists across the country,” said Matt Warman, Minister for Digital Infrastructure.

“This will help them avoid the high costs and disruption of having to dig or build their own and ultimately benefit consumers.

Matt Warman
Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman is seeking views on changing regulations to make infrastructure sharing easier for broadband companies (PA)

“We want them, and utility companies, to do more to open these up and help speed up getting next-generation broadband to people across the UK.”

A review will assess if changes could be made to the Access to Infrastructure (ATI) Regulations 2016, with the Government first launching a call for evidence.

The Conservatives made an election pledge to bring gigabit-capable broadband to every home and business in Britain within five years.

Clare MacNamara, chief executive of the Broadband Stakeholder Group – the Government’s advisory forum for telecoms policy, said: “It is important for the Broadband Stakeholder Group that the right measures are in place to support UK fibre and gigabit rollout in order for industry to meet the target of nationwide availability by 2025.

“We therefore welcome Government’s review of the regulations.”

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