The Electronic Communications Code (the Code) regulates rights for network operators and infrastructure providers to install and maintain digital communications infrastructure on public and private land. The Code was substantially reformed in 2017, to make it cheaper and easier for digital infrastructure to be deployed, maintained and upgraded. These new measures build on those reforms, to ensure their original aims are fully realised.
The Telecommunications infrastructure measures will amend the Code to support the quick and efficient rollout of gigabit-capable broadband and 5G networks in a way that balances the interests of landowners, telecoms operators, and the public.
The changes come following extensive consultation with the telecoms industry,
landowners and their representatives, professional bodies, and members of the public.
The measures in this Bill aim to support and encourage faster and more collaborative negotiations, and to ensure the procedure and framework for renewing expired agreements is clearer and more consistent.
Purpose of the reforms
The government has ambitious plans to achieve the nationwide rollout of future-proof, gigabit-capable broadband and 5G networks as soon as possible, to unlock the huge economic and social benefits that this will bring.
The government is targeting a minimum of 85% gigabit-capable coverage by 2025 and aiming to ensure that 95% of the UK’s geographic landmass has 4G coverage from at least one mobile network operator by 2025, and that most of the UK population has 5G coverage by 2027.
The reforms will help ensure that the rollout of future-proof, gigabit-capable broadband and 5G networks delivers equal opportunities for businesses and households across the UK to engage with the digital economy and realise the social and economic benefits increased connectivity brings.
Key changes to the Code
The Bill will introduce measures to actively encourage the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) rather than legal proceedings.
The Bill will also create a new process enabling operators to obtain Code rights over certain types of land quickly, in circumstances where a landowner does not respond to repeated requests for Code rights.
To help negotiations for renewal agreements to be completed more quickly, the Bill will encourage measures with ADR where appropriate.
The Bill introduces new rights for operators to share and upgrade apparatus installed under land, regardless of when it was installed, providing specific criteria are satisfied, which will ensure there will be no impact on the land, and no burden on the landowner.
These reforms will apply to parties involved in requests for Code rights, which deal with the deployment and maintenance of telecoms infrastructure and networks on private land.