The Law Commission has published a report recommending a new Electronic Communications Code. The report was commissioned by the Government and follows a consultation carried out by the Law Commission last year. The report highlights that current legislation is creating difficulties in the roll out of superfast broadband and 4G mobile networks.

The code regulates agreements made between landowners and telecoms operators licensed by Ofcom for the siting of apparatus such as landline cables and mobile phone masts. The code gives operators a statutory security of tenure and while in most cases apparatus is installed by agreement with the landowner, in some cases the code gives operators the right to install apparatus without consent.

The code was originally enacted in 1984 and, despite amendment in 2003, is not suited to modern needs. The Commission considers that references to out-of-date legislation and important points of uncertainty are actually creating difficulties in the roll out of superfast broadband and 4G mobile networks.

The Commission’s proposals are designed to achieve greater clarity on the rights conferred on operators, assessment of consideration for landowners (which should be based on the definition of market value in the RICS “Red Book”), enforcement of termination provisions and effective dispute resolution. Among the recommendations are rights for operators to share the use of apparatus and to upgrade apparatus without further payment, provided that no change is visible from outside the structure housing the apparatus and no additional burden is placed on the landowner.

A draft bill is awaited from the Government. The full text of the report can be found here.