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Blow for UK Mobile Coverage Plans as Landowners Win Access Charges Fight

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015 (10:58 am) - Score 942

The Country Land and Business Association, which represents thousands of landowners from across England and Wales, appears to have partially won its recent complaint against the Government’s proposal to regulate the price that landowners can charge telecoms operators for access to their land.

The original proposal came alongside a batch of amendments to the Infrastructure Bill, which included a plan to replace the existing Electronic Communications Code (ECC). The ECC is, among other things, responsible for regulating the agreements that can be reached between landowners and communications companies regarding the location, installation and access to infrastructure.

The Government put the amendments forward (here) as part of their wider agreement with the United Kingdom’s major mobile operators before Christmas (here), which included a key pledge to extend the geographic coverage of their mobile networks (voice and text) from 80% today to 90% by 2017 (note: 85% for 3G and 4G).

Unfortunately gaining access to private land can sometimes be a complicated business, especially when the landowners attempt to charge very high prices for access (wayleave agreements). As a result the Government had hoped to make this process easier and cheaper, although the CLA rejected the idea by claiming that it would “diminish landowners’ rights to negotiate a fair price with global communications companies for the location of telecommunication masts and underground cables“.

However yesterday’s debate on the new Infrastructure Bill appears to have resulted in the proposal being withdrawn.

Infrastructure Bill – Amendment 91 (10028)

Secretary Patrick McLoughlin
Chris Bryant
John McDonnell

Page 55, line 32, leave out clause 49

This amendment and amendments 106 and 107 remove clause 49 and Schedules 8 and 9 which included provision replacing the telecommunications code in Schedule 2 to the Telecommunications Act 1984 with a substantially revised version called the electronic communications code, and made related consequential amendments. The existing telecommunications code will accordingly continue in effect.

It’s unclear how this will impact the current plans, although it’s likely that the issue will need to be debated again in the not too distant future. Naturally the CLA are pleased and the organisations President, Henry Robinson, said: “We are pleased Ministers have decided to withdraw this Code. There were deep flaws with what was proposed. It was too complex and unworkable for all sides.”

We are keen to collaborate with the Government to secure reform of this Code. The end objective we all want is better mobile coverage in rural areas that are currently all but cut off from the communications that are part of everyday life for most. This can only be achieved through proper consultation and we will now be seeking reassurance that this will take place,” concluded Robinson.

A proper agreement will be required as otherwise the deployment process could turn out to be significantly slower and more expensive than hoped, which might also hinder the planned coverage.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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1 Response
  1. Mike says:

    Landlords don’t attempt to charge very high prices in my experience, there is very little negotiation room. Instead of worrying about mast rents perhaps the mobile operators should stop wasting vast amounts of money on mast sites that never get used.

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