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Ofcom UK Publish Final Electronic Communications Code of Practice

Friday, Dec 15th, 2017 (3:46 pm) - Score 3,149

Ofcom has published their final UK Code of Practice for the Government’s reformed Electronic Communications Code (ECC), which aims to make it easier and cheaper for mobile and broadband operators’ to deploy new infrastructure (masts, fibre optic cables etc.) on public or private land.

At present when a fixed line broadband or mobile operator wants to deploy a new network, particularly into rural areas, then this can sometimes be hampered by an inability to reach a wayleave agreement for access to the land or the need to pay out a hefty rental fee.

Under the reformed Electronic Communications Code (ECC), which is part of the new 2017 Digital Economy Act, telecoms providers should be able to reach rental agreements that would see them paying about the same amount as utility providers (water, electricity etc.), who often pay a lot less than broadband and mobile operators.

The new ECC should also make it easier for operators to upgrade or share their equipment with rivals and it introduces standards for tackling related legal disputes. As such Ofcom’s code sets out what conduct is expected from both the landowners and the telecoms companies.

Ofcom Statement

Under the ECC, Ofcom can grant powers to certain companies to allow them to roll out communications infrastructure, such as phone masts, more easily. Companies with these powers are able to construct and maintain electronic communications equipment on public land, and apply to a court for permission to carry out work on private land if agreement cannot be reached with the landowner.

Ofcom was asked by Government to develop this Code of Practice to assist future negotiations between operators and landowners. We have decided that the draft Code we proposed in March broadly remains appropriate, although we have made some changes following feedback to the consultation.

Understandably private landowners tend to be opposed to anything that will result in them having less control over their land or reducing their income from rentals. On the other hand if landowners force operators to pay more or reject them then it can result in local communities being left with poor connectivity, which also negatively affects the landowners.

The code itself remains non-binding (i.e. there is no statutory obligation on operators or landowners to comply with its provisions) and it’s future impact is still very much open to debate. Meanwhile landowners, such as the CLA, continue to complain about poor mobile coverage.

Mark Bridgeman, CLA Deputy President, said:

“It is ridiculous that eight out of ten people in rural areas still do not have access to more than one of the major mobile operators. The existing target for mobile coverage is pathetically unambitious, and as of January there will be no target at all. These figures are an indictment of the weak position the Government and Ofcom have taken with the industry. Time and again they have rolled over to industry demands and rural communities are still being cut off from the digital economy.

It’s time to look again at how the industry is being held to account for its performance on rural coverage. If we are to take seriously the promises made to rural people, it is imperative that new, stretching and legally binding targets are in place that match our ambition for the modern economy. We shall be seeking answers from the Government and the regulator and asking MPs to look at the issue in detail.”

A recent report in Farmers Weekly claimed that the number of landowners seeking to remove operators’ from their property had increased by at least 30%, largely due to fears over the new code’s impact. However we have yet to see any solid details on this.

Ofcom’s Final ECC

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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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1 Response
  1. Avatar photo Dave Bean says:

    Mark we live in Hull and KCOM is currently extending ‘Light Stream’ to the entire city and beyond. However they recently planted apple outside my front window on the main road. It is the only Pole along the concourse of the main road all other poles have been placed rightly behind the houses to minimise affecting the landscape and residents
    This has happened to many residents across the city. We have all lodged complaints but the company more roles insists it has the right to do this and that local councils are responsible for posting notices to residents. How true is this please. I am fighting this on the basis that for us It impedes certain rights that other householders have and that we did not receive any notification whatsoever. The pole is being used to provide broadband to a separate estate across the main road. our broadband is behind the houses and the pole is of no benefit to either me or anyone else on the estate yet i am hugely inconvenienced by this. Loss of value is also another threat who wants to readily buy a house at market value when there is a dirty great pole stuck in front viewable form the main window of my house? Can you comment please

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