Home
 » ISP News, Key Developments » 
Sponsored

Telecoms Operators Win Key UK Court Case Over Building Access

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018 (3:15 pm) - Score 2,338
internet law uk

The UK Government’s revised Electronic Communications Code, which is designed to make it easier and cheaper for broadband ISPs and mobile operators to build their networks, has passed an important hurdle after a court ruled that CTIL (O2 and Vodafone) could force access to land in order to conduct a survey.

Historically there’s always been tension around this subject, not least due issues of disruption, access and cost (rental). As a result disputes over wayleave agreements have in the past sometimes made it far too difficult or expensive for providers to expand their network coverage, which must be overcome in order to support the Government’s ambition for universal “full fibre” (FTTP) coverage and 5G mobile (here).

The reformed Electronic Communications Code (ECC), which is part of the 2017 Digital Economy Act and supported by Ofcom’s Code of Practice (here), was designed to overcome as many of the problem areas as possible by making it easier and cheaper for telecoms operators to access public or private land in order to build new networks.

Since then a related agreement has seen landowners and telecoms providers come together in order to express their support for the changes (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). But some grey areas remain.

For example, a recent court case between the University of London and Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Ltd (CTIL), which is responsible for managing O2 and Vodafone’s UK network, has sought to test the code. In this case CTIL had requested a limited right to access some roof space in order to conduct a survey, with a view to possibly installing new mobile network equipment, but their request was refused.

The University of London strongly felt as if no such right existed under the Code for one of their private buildings (in the Paddington area), while the Upper Tribunal disagreed and ruled that they could gain access as part of the code’s right to “install“. The court also strongly supported CTIL’s public interest point (i.e. the goal of improving mobile connectivity for all) and the need for flexibility in related agreements.

Simon Tarr, Pegasus Group Director, told ISPreview.co.uk:

“This judgement is the first to be decided by the Lands Tribunal since the new Electronic Communications Code came into force at the end of December 2017.

The case was rather complex and the decision detailed but the basic premise is that under the New Code, an operator does not need the agreement of the land or building owner to be able to install telecommunications equipment.

There are a couple of conditions to satisfy: 1. That the harm to the landowner can be adequately compensated by money and 2. That the public benefit outweighs any harm to the landowner.

However, the judgement reinforces the fact that the New Code has teeth and enables the Lands Tribunal to force an unwilling landowner to enter into a new lease for a telecoms site.

Clearly there needs to be wider debate about site suitability and alternative site options in each instance and as such, agreements are only likely to be forced in a small number of cases. Nevertheless, this is a significant development for the world of telecoms and demonstrates the Government’s intention to fully support the rights it outlined in the New Code and the further development of modern, wireless infrastructure.”

One rather big problem with all this is that the scales have switched around over the past few months. As a result some telecoms operators are no longer playing fair, which is a topic that the UK Digital Minister, Margot James MP, is keen to resolve (here). “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,” said Margot.

For example, some rents on 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. Likewise one report that recently passed through ISPreview’s inbox alleges that CTIL offered just £50 for a roof site where they were previously paying £6,000 (on the same roof EE are said to be paying £12,000!).

The old charges are clearly extortionate, but replacing those with a figure of £50 is going to the opposite extreme. As usual this highlights the difficulty with finding a good balance and expecting both sides to play fair. Margot James MP is currently busy trying to find a solution and hopefully the operators’ will agree to revise their approach, otherwise we’ll be back to another legislated change and that could be counter-productive.

Add to Diigo
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.
Leave a Comment
10 Responses
  1. Avatar Joe

    “The old charges are clearly extortionate, but replacing those with a figure of £50 is going to the opposite extreme. As usual this highlights the difficulty with finding a good balance and expecting both sides to play fair. Margot James MP is currently busy trying to find a solution and hopefully the operators’ will agree to revise their approach, otherwise we’ll be back to another legislated change and that could be country-productive.”

    Ultimately it needs a right of appeal for landowners. That the court can mandate a ‘fair and reasonable’ fee (both for the ongoing rent and any disruption/loss caused by the build and or ongoing servicing)

  2. Avatar Mike

    I guess a roof owner could just encourage the growth of mold and wood worm until it caves in.

  3. Avatar MikeP

    An interesting question here.

    No-one thinks twice about a public sewer crossing their land (except the conveyancer at the time of purchase) nor would you consider charging the water company for the wayleave. It’s recognised as for the common good (and, of course, a vital contributor to public health).

    On the other hand (having one crossing my property) I get regular letters from the ambulance chasers offering to negotiate a wayleave payment from the DNO (Distribution Network Operator) for their lines and poles. But it’s the 11KV distribution that feeds my property amongst others (in fact the transformer pole is on or maybe just off my land), so as a matter of principle, I’m not going to seek that payment as I gain benefit of supply from that line.

    There’s further arguments that come to mind – telecom equipment affects your property quite significantly so perhaps that’s different – but then I have 2 trees under the lines so the DNO has lopped them (aggressively and not to the standard that a tree surgeon would) to prevent the growth getting too close to them.

    So some precedent on the side of the telco, some precedent on the side of the landowner…..

    • Avatar Joe

      “but then I have 2 trees under the lines so the DNO has lopped them (aggressively and not to the standard that a tree surgeon would) to prevent the growth getting too close to them.”

      I have that joy – they come around and we agree how much they can chop off and I sign an agreement then later they send some chancer around who tries to cut 1/2 the tree down 🙁

  4. Avatar NE555

    I expect farmers will be very pleased if the outcome if “country-productive” 🙂

  5. Avatar Biĺl

    It is a bit much if an owner is forced to have a mast if they have concerns about radiation.
    Whether justified or not, an owner should have the right to do what they please on their own property without others imposing things.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Given the Queen owns all land in England and Wales that’s an interesting one.

    • Avatar AnotherTim

      But the Queen doesn’t own all the land.

    • Avatar MikeP

      I’m concerned that the fumes leaking from the sewer that flows under my garden will lead to me getting the vapours, killing me.

      Should I have the right to stop that sewer flowing ?

      And note that with the increasing refusal of public bodies to deal with things like benefits other than online, internet access is becoming a matter of life and death. It shouldn’t be, true.

  6. Avatar AnotherTim

    In cases such as sewers the wayleave agreement that may well be in your deeds if the sewers pre-date you purchasing your property will attribute liability in case of problems. I don’t have sewers, so don’t have that particular problem (I do have an unexpected water main however).
    Wayleaves take time to negotiate because liability has to be set from the outset. And many landowners aren’t being awkward when they delay things and expect a reasonable payment – it can cost them money. For example I run a business, and I have to have public liability insurance. If some utility company digs a trench across my land, and doesn’t make good properly and someone twists an ankle, the liability for that has to be clear. My PL insurance will increase if I can’t provide a legal agreement that it is someone else’s risk (and it isn’t cheap!). And of course getting a solicitor to draft/check a wayleave agreement isn’t cheap either. £50 wouldn’t cover any of it.

Comments RSS Feed

Javascript must be enabled to post (most browsers do this automatically)

Privacy Notice: Please note that news comments are anonymous, which means that we do NOT require you to enter any real personal details to post a message. By clicking to submit a post you agree to storing your comment content, display name, IP, email and / or website details in our database, for as long as the post remains live.

Only the submitted name and comment will be displayed in public, while the rest will be kept private (we will never share this outside of ISPreview, regardless of whether the data is real or fake). This comment system uses submitted IP, email and website address data to spot abuse and spammers. All data is transferred via an encrypted (https secure) session.

NOTE 1: Sometimes your comment might not appear immediately due to site cache (this is cleared every few hours) or it may be caught by automated moderation / anti-spam.

NOTE 2: Comments that break our rules, spam, troll or post via known fake IP/proxy servers may be blocked or removed.
Cheapest Superfast ISPs
  • Hyperoptic £21.00 (*25.00)
    Avg. Speed 50Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: £50 Shopping Voucher
  • TalkTalk £21.95 (*36.00)
    Avg. Speed 38Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Plusnet £21.99 (*34.98)
    Avg. Speed 36Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: £75 Cashback
  • SSE £22.00
    Avg. Speed 35Mbps, Unlimited (FUP)
    Gift: None
  • xln telecom £22.74 (*47.94)
    Avg. Speed 66Mbps, Unlimited (FUP)
    Gift: None
Prices inc. Line Rental | View All
The Top 20 Category Tags
  1. BT (2537)
  2. FTTP (2257)
  3. FTTC (1678)
  4. Building Digital UK (1617)
  5. Politics (1446)
  6. Openreach (1432)
  7. Business (1260)
  8. Statistics (1115)
  9. FTTH (1106)
  10. Mobile Broadband (1059)
  11. Fibre Optic (978)
  12. Ofcom Regulation (924)
  13. Wireless Internet (921)
  14. 4G (919)
  15. Virgin Media (871)
  16. EE (606)
  17. Sky Broadband (602)
  18. TalkTalk (587)
  19. Vodafone (535)
  20. 3G (418)
Promotion
Helpful ISP Guides and Tips
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
Sponsored

Copyright © 1999 to Present - ISPreview.co.uk - All Rights Reserved - Terms , Privacy and Cookie Policy , Links , Website Rules , Contact