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UK Digital Minister Rages Against Telcos Over Ultra Cheap Wayleaves

Friday, October 5th, 2018 (11:10 am) - Score 2,198
road rural countryside

The on-going effort to improve rural superfast broadband and mobile network coverage has taken another twist after the UK Government’s Digital Minister, Margot James MP, said it was an “outrage” that some telecoms operators were slashing rents on their infrastructure to “derisory” low levels.

In the past it was landowners who took much of the blame by creating disputes over complex wayleave agreements, which could sometimes make it far too difficult or expensive for network builders to expand their coverage into digitally disadvantaged communities.

However recent moves by landowners, the government and telecoms firms to jointly support the reformed Electronic Communications Code have begun to change all that (here). Similarly the Country Land & Business Association, National Farmers’ Union, Openreach, Virgin Media and Gigaclear have also agreed to a new general wayleave arrangement (here).

All of this will be necessary in order to help support the Government’s various aspirations, which seek to achieve 95% geographic UK coverage of mobile networks by 2022 and to cover the entire country in “full fibre” (FTTP) infrastructure by 2033 (here). Not to mention the forthcoming 10Mbps+ Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband, which will focus on some of the most digitally isolated areas.

Unfortunately Margot James MP has now warned that some unnamed operators have been using the ECC changes to go too far in the other direction, such as by dramatically cutting the rents they pay on infrastructure. According to the Farmers Guardian, some rents for greenfield sites that would have previously attracted £5,000/year or more have been cut to £3/year and other farmers have seen deals fall from £12,000/year to £50/year.

Margot James MP said:

“[The new agreement] clearly is not being observed in every part of the country and I have heard about some really derisory payments being offered to farmers.

They were probably earning more than was reasonable before, but that does not mean to say we need to go to the other extreme. It is on my agenda to try to facilitate a better solution.”

As usual it’s difficult to correctly judge all this without first knowing more about the aforementioned examples and operators involved. Similarly we don’t know how big this particular problem is or if it’s somehow isolated. In any case Margot has pledged to meet with the companies involved in the hope of trying to find a solution.

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Mark Jackson
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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2 Responses
  1. Avatar wireless pacman

    I suspect there will be a risk if the rent paid to farmers gets too low when over farm land. We might then find a sudden and periodic need for deep ploughing starts up!

    • Avatar Joe

      Around my way they put plastic covers over fibre on poles and exposed areas, Just perfect for hitting with flales!

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