Major mobile reforms have been presented in Parliament as part of the new Digital Economy Bill.
Digital Economy minister Ed Vaziey introduced the bill for its first reading to the House of Commons on 5th July, outlining plans to enable providers to boost mobile and broadband infrastructure. The bill outlined new rights for mobile operators, new broadband powers for Ofcom and will make it easier for consumers to switch communication providers.
Vaziey’s network pledge
Changes to the Electronic Communications Code were a key part of the Digital Economy Bill, which Vaziey pledged would bring about ‘long term reform’. The MP initially announced plans to scrap the old Code in May, promising to introduce new freedoms for networks to access mast sites, deploy new infrastructure and upgrade systems.
This decision was widely welcomed by mobile operators, many of whom viewed the old Code as a major barrier to improving mobile coverage across the country. UK networks have long lobbied the Government to bring about changes, with Vodafone repeatedly calling for more to be done to change mobile mast site access laws.
Speaking at the time, Vaziey said: ‘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. 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.’
The Digital Economy Bill is expected to pass through the House of Commons and onto the House of Lords by Autumn 2016, with Royal Assent expected in Spring 2017.