Regulating Future Telecommunications
On the 28th December 2017, the Government made substantial revisions to the Electronic Communications Code to further regulate the telecoms market and to make it easier to formulate agreements with landowners. The consensus by those working in the industry is that the need for connectivity is increasing, but there is a delay in deployment and as such, the Communication Code did not have its intended effect and therefore further amendments are needed.
The Government responded and suggested a revision of the Electronic Communications Code, with the intention of improving rural connectivity and simplifying processes for agreements to be reached with site providers. This includes changes to the way mobile masts are shared and upgraded, as well as proposed new rules for third-party wayleave agreements for fixed line connections.
Landowners, however, argue that the Government has failed to understand that the present valuation structure is the major cause for this failure, with a Code that encourages legal disputes between Landowners and Operators because a market price that is satisfactory to both cannot be easily agreed upon. It is hardly surprising that the current Code has caused huge frustration amongst Landowners, while Operators rely on the courts to impose Code compliant agreements.
The Government may tilt the balance even further in favour of the Operator, as there is currently no balanced approach within the proposals that respects the rights of both the Landowner and Operator. As a result of this, there is a breakdown in communication which is having a direct result on digital rollout.
If the proposals set out by the Government go through as intended, the code will be even more skewed in favour of the Operators. Not only will this have a direct impact by forcing Landowners to accept draconian reductions in rent or wait for the courts to act in judgment, but it fails to meet those expectations set out by the public – such as, reliable, and up to date broadband for both recreational and work uses.
It is important that Landowners have a good understanding of how the Code works and equally appoint an agent to represent them in any negotiation with an Operator. It is also advised that they consult their Solicitor early on to iron out foreseeable issues that may arise during these negotiations, so that they are in the best possible position.
Frank Smith & Co Solicitors have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to entering into telecom leases, having worked with many Clients on leases involving large Telecommunication providers. If you are a Landowner who wishes to discuss a telecoms lease, please contact Frank Smith & Co Solicitors on 01242 801748