November 29, 2021
The Government says that telecoms operators and landowners are experiencing difficulties when negotiating requests for rights to install, use and upgrade telecoms infrastructure. These issues have slowed down the roll-out of better mobile and broadband coverage for some homes and businesses, with negotiations taking longer than they should and some cases ending up tangled in lengthy and costly court proceedings.
Further problems include landowners failing to reply to requests to access land for network deployment, and strict limitations on operators’ ability to upgrade and share their equipment which are stopping existing networks being used as efficiently as possible.
The PSTI Bill aims to tackle many of these issues by amending the Electronic Communications Code (ECC) which was last updated in 2017. This includes:
- a new requirement for telecoms operators to consider the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in cases where there are difficulties in agreeing terms; operators will also be required to explain the availability of ADR as an option in their notices to landowners;
- new automatic rights for operators to upgrade and share underground infrastructure, such as fibre optic cables, which were installed before the 2017 ECC reforms and are not currently covered; this is in cases where there will be no impact on private land or burden on the site provider;
- new rules to allow operators to apply for time-limited access to certain types of land more quickly where a landowner does not respond to repeated requests for permission; and
- new provisions to speed up negotiations for renewal agreements; operators who already have infrastructure installed under an expired agreement will have the right to either renew it on similar terms to those for new agreements or request a new one.
The Government says that these measures are vital for its £1 billion Shared Rural Network project which will roll out fast and reliable 4G coverage to 95 per cent of UK landmass, as well as hitting the Government’s target of 85 per cent gigabit-capable broadband coverage by 2025 and for the majority of the population to be in reach of a 5G network by 2027. To read the Government’s press release in full, click here. To read the accompanying factsheet, click here.