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Question for Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

UIN 58703, tabled on 11 June 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what support is offered to gigabit capable broadband operators when a landlord charges excessive wayleave fees to discourage deployment.

Answered on

16 June 2020

The Electronic Communications Code (“the Code”) regulates the legal relationships (including wayleave agreements) between site providers and operators of electronic communications networks (known as Code Operators) to support the rollout and maintenance of communications infrastructure.

The Code was substantially revised as part of the Digital Economy Act 2017 to make it cheaper and easier for telecommunications operators to deploy their networks at pace. Rights to install infrastructure on private land are subject to an agreement being made with the landowner. Most agreements are reached on a consensual basis, but where this cannot be achieved, or where disputes arise, the Code allows either party to apply to a court for resolution of the disputed matter, i.e. by the imposition of an agreement.

The revised Code changed the basis on which access to land is valued when an agreement is imposed to a ‘no scheme’ system. Paragraph 24 of the revised Code makes clear that when assessing the consideration payable by an operator, the court must do so on the assumption of no additional value relating to the provision or use of an electronic communications network, when they are imposing an agreement. This is expected to reduce operator costs and encourage investment in infrastructure rollout.

Government expects that operators and landlords will negotiate in good faith and hopes that, in most cases, agreements will be reached on a consensual basis. However, if a landlord is seeking to charge an operator excessive fees, it is open to the operator to apply to the court for an agreement to be imposed in appropriate circumstances. Any order made to this effect will cover the price that must be paid to the landlord, and will be based on the statutory valuation regime, which is specifically designed to prevent “ransom” pricing.

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