Britain mulling broadband speed disclosure for every home

Rules would let home owners and renters see what services are available before moving.

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Broadband Speed Disclosure:

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Now here’s a great idea: the British government is debating forcing internet providers to disclose broadband speeds to individual residences. That way, anyone moving into a new home would be able to see what kinds of internet connections they could expect while living there.

Currently, individuals who want that information must inquire with each individual ISP servicing the address. The proposed changes to the Digital Economy Bill would give Ofcom, the nation’s telecommunications regulator, the power to publish “any information held by the provider.”

Under such a system, home buyers and renters could presumably punch in an address on a website to see what’s available at a given address. It’d be an easy way of discovering specifically which homes rather than just areas are well served and which are being neglected by ISPs.

It would also likely have a major effect on property values. After all, no one would want to move into a home that has only partially working electricity, or water that only runs sometimes. Broadband is a key utility for the 21st century, so the British government is rightfully treating it as such.

The idea is reminiscent of “Homes with Tails,” a paper published back in 2008 by Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu and Google public policy manager Derek Slater. In the paper, the duo envisioned a future where consumers owned the fibre connections to their homes, obviating the need to go through an ISP to connect to the internet.

Such fibre connections would lower the cost of internet service and raise the value of the homes. A typical home with a fibre connection was worth $4,000 (U.S.) more than one without, the duo argued.

Home ownership of fibre was attempted in Ottawa several years ago, but the idea never got off the ground. Bill St. Arnaud, the project’s founder, attributed the problems to central exchange providers, who were unwilling to open up their networks to allow competition for the likes of Bell and Rogers.

There was also the issue of trying to convince home owners to spring for building the fibre connections, which can run thousands of dollars. Consumers are accustomed to effectively renting their internet connections, rather than owning them, so it may have been an idea ahead of its time.

Disclosure of connection speeds available at each individual address, however, remains a solid idea.

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