UK Government launches Electronic Communications Code consultation

UK Government launches Electronic Communications Code consultation

Three years after the Electronic Communications Code was launched, in a blaze of disappointment, the UK Government has realised it needs to be reformed. The consultation details can be found hereĀ 

The 2017 Code was five years in consultation and drafting, but to have reached this point after a further three years is not a great surprise to many. A sledgehammer to crack a walnut doesn’t do it justice. Instead of cracking the walnut, it has pulverised it beyond recognition. No one likes the new Code. The only winners have been the barristers and lawyers who have litigated over it – and who can blame them?

The current Code has been used aggressively by operators and badly litigated by landowners. To the surprise of few in the industry, the supply of “willing” site providers has almost completely dried up. Operators aren’t charities and their investment in infrastructure should not be at unrealistically low costs. No person, business or organisation in the UK should be forced “to take one for the team” in having a code agreement imposed them, without being paid fair and reasonable compensation and consideration. Britain is founded upon justice and fairness and the new code is just not fair. The previous regime was unsustainable but the new Code has taken it much too far the other way. The DCMS failed to understand the real burdens suffered by site providers in hosting Code agreements and the associated costs and losses from those burdens. From the first moment that a site provider is approached by an operator they will be incurring costs which they should not have to fight to recover.

It’s vital that telecoms operators should be able to roll-out their networks efficiently and quickly, but they should be welcomed by land and property owners. The 2017 Code has turned them in to pariahs, to the benefit of no one. This is an opportunity to make the Code the guiding legislation behind fast, efficient and lower cost electronic communications infrastructure roll-out and delivery – critical infrastructure for the benefit of the whole of the UK – but fairly reflecting the burdens that the infrastructure imposes on site providers and landowners.

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