New rules are expected to take effect from 1 July 2016, implementing an EU Directive. The building industry and its advisors should prepare now for those new rules since broadband infrastructure will need to be incorporated into the design process for all new homes and buildings which will be submitted to planning after 31 December 2016. Existing exclusivity arrangements between developers/builders and communications network operators will also likely be affected.
In summary, the new obligations are expected to include:
- a requirement that all newly constructed homes and buildings (including apartment and office blocks), and those which undergo major renovation works, for which applications for planning permission are submitted after 31 December 2016, must be equipped with next generation broadband infrastructure eg mini-ducts to host fibre cables throughout a building; and
- from 1 July 2016, all broadband network operators will have a right to roll- out their broadband networks up to the communications access points in buildings and, in many cases, will have a right to access existing ducts and associated communications infrastructure within buildings.
Exclusivity arrangements in respect of broadband infrastructure available or accessible in buildings will no longer be permitted (and, in respect of legacy arrangements, are unlikely to be sustainable).
New Homes and Buildings and Major Renovations
All new homes and buildings constructed in Ireland post-December 2016 will need to be designed and built so as to incorporate broadband infrastructure. For example, this means that an apartment or office building must be designed with a network of mini-ducts throughout the building extending from the communications access point to the network termination point in each user’s premises. It is not necessary that a broadband service be provided – the rules require only that broadband hosting infrastructure (such as ducts etc) must be incorporated into a building’s construction or renovation.
The rules will apply not only to new homes and buildings but also to major renovation works on existing homes and buildings.
These are defined in the Directive as building or civil engineering works encompassing structural modifications of all or a significant part of the parts of a building related to broadband infrastructure and which require planning permission. It is envisaged that the new rules may be introduced by means of an amendment to existing building regulations. We understand that consultation may be undertaken by relevant government Departments with the building industry on the practical application of the new requirements in 2016.
Building Open-Access Obligations
All new multi-dwelling buildings, such as apartments and offices within larger complexes, must, post-December 2016, be equipped with communications access points ie the physical point located inside or outside a building that enables a broadband connection to the building.
From 1 July 2016, broadband network providers will have a right to access existing communications access points and communications ducting within a building (with some limited exceptions).
It seems likely that any legacy exclusivity arrangements agreed between developers/ builders and particular communications networks (for example, in respect of particular housing developments) will be open to scrutiny once the new rules are implemented.
It remains to be seen how these obligations will be met in new-builds eg by means of communal ducting reaching each apartment or office into which each broadband provider can install their own fibre cable or by means of a neutral fibre being pre-installed within a building, to which access is provided to all broadband providers.