Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has revealed a major overhaul to the Electronics Communications Code (ECC) in a move to boost mobile infrastructure.
Released by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), the report named ‘A New Electronic Communications Code’ outlined plans to make major reforms to the current system.
Vaziey said that the new Code will give mobile networks new rights to access land and deploy new infrastructure. He said that operators will also have more freedom to upgrade existing systems and roll out coverage, putting them on the same level as utility providers.
Describing the changes as ‘long term reforms’, the minister for Culture and the Digital Economy said: ‘The Government wants to reform the Code to put in place modern regulation which fully supports the rollout of digital communications infrastructure. The new Code will vastly improve on the existing Code. It will make major reforms to the rights that communications providers have to access land, moving to a “no scheme” basis of valuation regime.
‘This will ensure property owners will be fairly compensated for use of their land, but also explicitly acknowledge the economic value for all of society created from investment in digital infrastructure. In this respect, it will put digital communications infrastructure on a similar regime to utilities like electricity and water. This will help deliver the coverage that is needed, even in hard to reach areas.
‘There will also be administrative changes to court processes to allow for improved dispute resolution, ensuring that disagreements between communications providers and landowners do not hold up investment and create uncertainty.’
The changes follow a pledge made by Chancellor George Osbourne at the 2016 Budget to bring greater freedom and flexability to UK networks.
Networks & MPs call for change
The ECC has been the focus of much debate over the last year as politicians and networks both fought for major reform. The Code has been viewed as a major barrier to improving mobile coverage across the UK, due to the complexity of the legislation.
Changes to the Code had been promised, as part of the major network’s £5bn deal with the UK Government to cover 90% of the country by 2017. However, access to mobile mast sites and networks being reportedly held to ‘ransom rents’ by landowners made this extremely difficult.