From 1st January 2017, all new buildings and many renovations will be required to incorporate provision for infrastructure to connect to high speed electronic communications networks. This is the effect of the Building (Amendment) Regulations 2016 implementing an EU Directive to the same effect. The regulations apply to works in respect of which Building Regulations approval is sought after 1st January 2017. From that date, they apply to all new building works (with certain exceptions) and also apply to major renovation works affecting wired or wireless network access infrastructure, unless the cost of compliance would be disproportionate to the benefit gained.

The requirements set out in the Regulations are supplemented by an Approved Document giving guidance on how to comply with a new Part R of the Building Regulations. The effect of the new Regulations and the Approved Document is that building work must be carried out so as to ensure that a building is equipped with high speed-ready physical infrastructure up to a network termination point for electronic communications networks. This is in order to reduce future connection costs, even if actual super-fast connectivity is not immediately available.

This means that there must be suitable physical infrastructure from the service provider's access point to an occupier's network termination point. In the case of multi-dwelling buildings, these must be equipped with a common access point capable of serving all the dwellings in the building.

The requirement is therefore to ensure that the service provider's ductwork and cabling can reach an access point but does not extend or provide any cabling or equipment beyond the network termination point. It is therefore for a developer or occupier to decide whether and how to make use of the access point.

Not all building work is covered by the Regulations. The significant exceptions are:

  • Exempt buildings which, in general, are those which have no sleeping accommodation
  • Building scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979
  • Buildings which are listed or in a conservation area where compliance would unacceptably alter their character or appearance
  • Buildings occupied by the Ministry of Defence or the armed forces
  • Buildings in isolated areas where the prospect of high-speed connection is considered too remote to justify compliance.

The Government anticipates that there will be few exceptions to the overall requirements when development is being carried out. It should therefore be a matter of course for most new developments and major renovations to incorporate the infrastructure required by the Regulations. However, retrofitting of the infrastructure in question in existing buildings is not required where no relevant renovation is planned. It should also be noted that the requirement is for the physical infrastructure to be adequate to ensure that copper, fibre optic cable or wireless devices capable of delivering broadband speeds greater than 30Mbps can be installed: the Approved Document points out that, in practice, a standard copper telephone cable, when connected to a service provider's fibre network, can deliver broadband speeds up to 70 Mbps.