Electronic Communications Code: what’s changing
Earlier this year, the government consulted on changes to the Electronic Communications Code.
The code regulates the rights of telecommunications operators to install and maintain apparatus on public and private land.
The government believes changes are needed to:
- improve litigation procedures
- ease the difficulties raised by site providers that block the progress of installing and keeping apparatus on public and private land
The consultation identified three problem areas:
- obtaining and using code agreements
- rights to upgrade and share
- renewal of expired agreements
The consultation closed on 24 March 2021.
The government has now analysed the feedback and published its outcome overview.
The government’s response
The government plans to introduce primary legislation making changes to the code “as soon as parliamentary time allows”.
It says the planned changes will:
- support the installation, maintenance and upgrading/sharing of apparatus
- facilitate faster and more collaborative negotiations between operators and site providers, while balancing the public interest in having improved digital connectivity with private property rights
There were 1266 responses to the consultation, largely from landowners, the general public, telecoms operators and professional bodies.
We welcome the review of the code in light of the identified issues.
However, we’re concerned that the proposals focus more on treating the symptoms of problems rather than examining the root causes.
We recognise the appropriateness of suggesting faster and more effective dispute resolution procedures, but this does not address the causes giving rise to the prevalence of disputes between operators and site providers.
In our view, the code formulae interfere too much with market forces.
Improvement of dispute resolution procedures and adjustment of some code provisions will only provide part of the answer.
What this means for solicitors
The changes are mainly relevant to commercial property lawyers.
We’ll continue to:
- monitor and engage with government’s work on the code
- update you as and when legislation is brought forward to effect the changes
Thank you to those who fed into our response.