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Landowners, Telcos and UK Gov Commit to New Infrastructure Code

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018 (5:21 pm) - Score 1,328
wireless broadband rural uk mast

The Government has this afternoon issued a joint statement alongside landowners and telecoms providers (broadband ISPs and mobile network operators), which aims to put aside past “problems” over implementation of the reformed Electronic Communications Code (ECC) and reaffirm support for the changes.

The reformed Electronic Communications Code (ECC), which is part of the 2017 Digital Economy Act and is supported by Ofcom’s related Code of Practice (here), has been designed to make it easier and cheaper for mobile operators or fixed line fibre broadband providers to access public or private land in order to build new networks.

Historically there’s always been some tension around this issue, not least due issues of disruption, access and cost (rental). As a result disputes over wayleave agreements can sometimes make it far too difficult or expensive for network builders to expand their coverage into digitally disadvantaged communities, which must be overcome in order to support the Government’s ambition for “full fibre” (FTTH/) and 5G mobile (here).

The new ECC aimed to resolve this, not least by making it so that telecoms providers could reach rental agreements that would see them paying about the same amount as utility providers (water, electricity etc.), who often pay a lot less. Naturally that has not been universally popular with landowners but this afternoon everybody seems to have finally come together over the issue.

Joint Statement by the UK Government and Industry

The reformed Electronic Communications Code (ECC) came into force in December 2017 with the aim of boosting coverage and connectivity across the UK, through a package of measures which Government expects to deliver significant cost reductions to the sector, while ensuring that landowners receive a fair payment for allowing their land to be used.

Since the new legislation was introduced, there have been problems with negotiations progressing. While some initial uncertainty is to be expected, Government, regulators, the telecoms sector, independent infrastructure providers and the landowner community, recognise the importance of all parties working collaboratively together, both during this transition period and moving forwards.

We are therefore coming together to reaffirm the commitments made to each other in Ofcom’s Code of Practice, and to reiterate our support for the Government’s ambition to be a leading global economy underpinned by world class full fibre network and 5G infrastructure. It is essential that parties engage professionally in open and constructive communications. The future needs of customers and the economy are too important for it to be otherwise.

Signatories

Mobile UK
CLA (Country Land and Business Association)
Ofcom
WIG (Wireless Infrastructure Group)
Arqiva
Vodafone
CTIL (Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Ltd)
O2
Three UK
EE
MBNL (Mobile Broadband Network Ltd)
Openreach (BT)
Virgin Media
NFU (National Farmers’ Union)
BPF (British Property Federation)
Countryside Alliance
GLA (Greater London Authority)
TechUK
RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors)
DWF (DWF LLP)

The announcement today also comes hot on the heels of the CLA and NFUs recent decision to update their existing wayleave framework, which was first agreed in 2013 (here) and has now been revised to help “speed up rural broadband roll-out” (here)

The UK Minister for Digital, Margot James MP, said: “It’s great to see industry and landowners committing to the Electronic Communications Code and backing our ambitions to improve connectivity and ensure Britain is fit for the future. From improving our existing networks to using the next generation of technology, collaboration is vital when it comes to building our digital infrastructure.”

Similarly the Director of Mobile UK, Hamish MacLeod, has warned that new broadband and mobile networks “can only be achieved if landowners work together with the telecoms sector as per the reformed [ECC] and the Ofcom Code of Practice. We welcome the publication of the statement jointly with the DCMS, RICS, and the CLA reaffirming these commitments.”

Meanwhile Mark Bridgeman, CLA Deputy President, agreed that “it is only by working together that the most meaningful improvements will be delivered.” Mark added that Ofcom’s code “should be the blueprint for future negotiations around rental agreements for masts. The CLA is pleased to endorse this as the best way to achieve agreements which deliver both a fair payment to landowners and improved rural mobile coverage.”

As usual the proof will be in the pudding and we’ll be keeping a close eye on events over the coming months in order to see whether or not all those involved are keeping to their support for the code.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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