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Extending the powers of telecom providers

21 July 2016

This is the legislation that governs the relationship between landowners and electronic communications providers that need access to land to install and maintain equipment such as mobile phone masts.

The government announced in the Queen’s speech that it proposes to implement the changes in the Digital Economy Bill.

The government’s statement includes the following key proposals:

 there will be major changes to the method of valuing rents to be paid by the operators. Communications providers will be given similar rights to utilities companies, reducing their rental expenditure and thereby creating greater incentives for investment, including in areas where previously costs have been prohibitive.

• operators will have new automatic rights to upgrade and share, and the code will make it clear that communications providers cannot be charged extra for changes where there is minimal adverse visual impact or burden on landowners.

• re-assignment of code rights will be enshrined to ensure that if infrastructure assets are sold and transferred between communications providers, there will be no option for landlords to negotiate new terms for existing contracts.

• ‘contracting out’ of the code will be prevented, and code rights will continue to apply even where there is a change of ownership in land. There will be no need to register the code rights.

There are various other proposals which are all designed to increase access to land for communications providers and reduce the costs of maintaining an infrastructure presence.

At present, it is not intended that the new communications code will be retrospective. Landowners should therefore be proactive in making sure that any existing contracts which are at the point of renewal are dealt with quickly under the current regime, in order to avoid any potential reduction in rental income.

Speak to our commercial property team for legal advice on anything property-related. Contact them here.

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