Telecomms – the Digital Economy Act 2017

telecoms

On 28thDecember 2017 the new Electronic Communications Code came into effect. This revised legislation has been designed to support the rollout of a robust and sustainable telecommunications network throughout the UK and replace the previous rules that had been much criticised from all sides.

Approaching 12 months from implementation, have we seen more clarity for site owners and operators?

The answers so far is an emphatic ‘no’.  We currently sit in and deeper vacuum of uncertainty, exacerbated by the aggressive approach taken by many operators attempting to bag a few easy wins to support a more heavy handed approach going forward.  Site owners must be especially vigilant in any discussions with operators regarding both new and existing agreements.

The New Code grants relevant telecoms licence holders with powers more akin to those of statutory undertakers in Utilities sector.  The main elements for site owners to be specifically aware of include:

  • New rights for operators to carry out the construction and upgrade of sites
  • Automatic rights to share or assign sites without owner’s consent
  • Rents to be based on ‘compensation basis’ for loss of land at current use value rather than market levels
  • Increase termination periods for landlords from 28 days’ notice to 18 months for removal of apparatus

A number of test cases are lined up for the Lands Tribunal and it is going to take some time for this situation to settle.  The broad sentiment seems to be that a ‘reasonable’ position will ultimately be adopted by both sides, but there is much wrangling ahead before this becomes established.

If you have been approached by operators with a view to entering discussions under the new Code it is important to take specialist advice.

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