Digital framework is crucially important to UK citizens and the Government is seeking to propose new legislation to facilitate wide reaching coverage, improved connectedness and speedier services.
What many people do not know is that at the moment the vast telecoms network is governed by an Electronic Communications Code enacted in 1984. Given the fact that the first handheld cellphone was sold in the USA on 13 March 1984, apparently weighing 28 ounces and nicknamed “The Brick” it is clear that the existing code has been long outstripped by technology itself.
In the Queen’s speech delivered on 18 May 2016 the Government’s intentions in this regard were set out. The Queen states:
“Measures will be brought forward to create the right for every household to access high speed broadband. Legislation will be introduced to improve Britain’s competitiveness and make the United Kingdom a world leader in the digital economy.”
The Code is in desperate need of reform due to its being outdated, complex and difficult to apply. It was famously described judicially as “one of the least coherent and thought-through pieces of legislation on the statue book.” The real problem for landlords in the past has been in recovering land from an operator and the resolution of disputes between operators and the owners of the various sites on which their telecoms equipment is placed.
The Government has now published a proposed amendment to the current Infrastructure Bill, recommending the incorporation of an entirely new Electronic Communications Code. This new Code is a complete re-write of the existing code with the aim that the new code will be clear in both its drafting and application.
The key provisions under the new code fall under the following headings. :
- Conferral of code rights and their exercise
- Sharing upgrading and assignment of code rights
- Termination of agreements
- Removal of apparatus
- Compensation under the code.
- Dispute resolution
- Code of practice/standard terms
- Impact on existing agreements.
The suggestions for a new Electronic Communications Code reveal that the Government acknowledges the competing interests of land owners and the general public; the interest of the land owners specifically relating to the value of their property investments and the interest of the general public being the desire to access a state of the art electronic communications service. The new emphasis is in favour of provisions of services and is likely to cause significant concern within the commercial property sector.