Earlier this month, the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology launched a consultation on how to implement section 67 of the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Act 2022, which deals with the issue of unresponsive landowners in the context of the Electronic Communications Code.
The purpose of the new legislation is to provide telecom operators with a new mechanism to install apparatus under or over (but not on) unbuilt upon land if a landowner does not respond to (a) a telecom operator's notice requesting the installation of electronic communication apparatus under or over the landowner's land (b) nor to the telecom operator's three subsequent warning notices. The new mechanism will enable a telecom operator to apply to court for a Part 4ZA order in these circumstances. If successful, a Part 4ZA order will impose an agreement on the landowner conferring / providing for the code right identified in the telecom operator's notice to be imposed on the land / the landowner.
The purpose of the legislation is to ensure gigabit-capable broadband for 85% of UK premises by 2025 and 100% of UK premises by 2030. Currently, telecom operators are facing difficulties getting landowners engaged; landowners often do not respond to a telecom operator's request to install electronic communication apparatus. The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology reports that this is slowing the deployment of gigabit-capable broadband and increasing costs for telecom operators. The new legislation is designed to encourage landowners to respond to a telecom operator's request.
In summary, the consultation seeks views on:
- the terms that will accompany the time-limited code rights acquired by telecom operators following a successful application to a court for a Part 4ZA order;
- whether to expand the definition of ‘relevant land’ such that the Part 4ZA process can be used to seek rights over other types of land;
(The definition of relevant land is key in determining which type of land can be subjected to a Part 4ZA order, currently this is (a) land that is not covered by buildings or used as a garden, park or other recreational area; or (b) land that is covered by buildings or is used as a garden, park or other recreational area and is of a description specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State.)
- procedural matters relating to the application process for a Part 4ZA order; and
- the length of time for which time-limited rights under Part 4ZA should remain valid, up to a maximum of 6 years.
The consultation closes on 4th September. More information on the consultation can be found here.
More considerations for landowners can be found in a recent article I penned here.