The Government has launched a long-awaited public consultation on reforming the rights given to telecoms operators to install and maintain their apparatus on public and private land. The Electronic Communications Code, set out in the Telecommunications Act 1984, gives statutory protection to operators, making it potentially difficult and expensive for landowners to remove telecoms apparatus without the operator's agreement. This is particularly important if the presence of apparatus interferes with the landowner's redevelopment plans.
Cable television, the internet, mobile and fixed line telephones are now an essential part of our businesses and private lives. However, their provision is reliant upon a vast network of masts, cables, wires, servers, routers and exchanges (to mention a few). At present, the Code governs the rights bestowed upon telecoms operators to install such networks.
Out-of-date and confusing, the Code has been described by Lord Justice Lewison as "one of the least coherent and thought-through pieces of legislation on the statute book". It is generally criticised in the industry for failing to strike a fair balance between the interests of telecoms operators and landowners, with the latter often suffering in silence rather than attempting to navigate the complicated process of requiring the operator to remove or alter their apparatus.
The consultation runs to over 130 pages and asks for views on (amongst other things) whether:
- "Code rights" should be extended or reduced
- owners and subsequent occupiers should be bound by an agreement created by a tenant (sometimes without authority)
- standardised notices should be introduced in relation to the procedures for alteration or removal of apparatus
- the relationship between the Code and other legislative regimes, such as the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954, should be clarified
Click here to read the consultation paper in full.