All new residential, commercial and community properties within the Neighbourhood Plan area should be served by a superfast broadband (fibre-optic) connection. The only exception will be where it can be demonstrated, through consultation with Next Generation Access (NGA) Network providers, that this would not be either possible, practical or economically viable. In such circumstances sufficient and suitable ducting should be provided within the site and to the property to facilitate ease of installation at a future date on an open access basis.
The responses to the Neighbourhood Plan consultation indicate that 70% of households are either in work or studying, with only 28% not currently working or studying (2% of respondents declined to comment). The majority of the working population responding to the consultation are either working or studying outside of the Arlesey parish. From the responses received, 23% work or study in the parish, whilst 77% of households travel elsewhere. A further breakdown of the employment profile of the neighbourhood area is in Appendix A of the plan document.
The modern economy is changing and provision of a good communications network is a basic requirement. The 2011 Census highlights how people are working differently to a generation ago – in Arlesey parish, 3.6% of people work from home and 14% are self-employed. Of these self-employed people, 11% have no employees so effectively work for themselves with no support. Commonly this is in service activities that simply require access to a computer and a broadband connection.
The need for superfast broadband to serve Arlesey is, therefore, paramount. Broadband speeds are reported by residents to vary wildly depending on which end of the parish one is in. Indeed, one of the most recent housing developments in the parish did not incorporate high speed fibre connection to the new dwellings. This is a fundamental constraint to the continuing expansion of self-employed activity for those working from home or from a small office.
In its 2015 manifesto, the government committed to delivering download speeds of 24Mbps to 95% of the UK by the end of 2017. Since then, a further announcement pledges that access to at least 10Mbps should be on a similar footing to other basic services such as water and electricity. This ‘Universal Service Obligation’ will mean that consumers will have the right to request a broadband connection wherever they live.
It is likely that this will take time to roll out meaning that some Arlesey residents will have to wait to receive superfast broadband without additional local authority intervention. In the meantime, whilst BT have an obligation to provide a landline to every household in the UK and developers are expected to want to facilitate high speed broadband provision to make their developments more marketable, there have been instances where developers have not contacted Network Generation Access (NGA) Network providers early enough in the process for fibre and ducting to be laid, or they have a national agreement with a cable provider that is not active in the area, leaving new housing developments with little or no connections.
This policy seeks to ensure that all new housing, community and commercial development in the neighbourhood area is connected to superfast broadband.