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Amendments to the UK’s Electronic Communications Code will give broadband operators compulsory rights to install their apparatus on another person’s property, thereby getting around the problem of landlords not responding to requests for access to blocks of flats and apartments.

The Challenge

The challenge that has prompted the government to seek changes to the current legislation has been a claim by broadband operators that 40% of their requests for access to blocks of flats and apartments have routinely received no response. This has been blamed for slowing down the UK government’s plans to deliver the target of national full-fibre coverage by 2025 and develop the kind of digital infrastructure that could boost growth and boost productivity.

The Law

Prior to 2017, the UK law that applied to relations between landlords and telecoms operators in respect installing and maintaining electronic communications apparatus on land and buildings was the Telecommunications Code in the Telecommunications Act 1984 (amended by the Communications Act 2003). This Telecommunications Code has now been replaced by the new Electronic Communications Code (as part of the Digital Economy Act 2017). The new code means that a broadband operator can now apply for compulsory rights to install apparatus on another person’s property.

It is thought this change to the law will mean that an extra 3,000 (estimated) residential buildings (flats and apartments) per year can now have modern broadband installed.

Rural Challenge

The government still faces a considerable challenge in getting more rural areas connected in order to meet its broadband and mobile network roll-out targets, and there is currently a digital divide between urban and rural areas of the UK.  The government has recently announced, however, that £5bn new funding will be made available to bring gigabit-capable broadband to harder-to-reach, rural parts of the UK as well as a change in planning rules to help the roll-out of 5G.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Now that operators don’t have to wait for responses from landlords, this could make the chance of the government meeting its broadband targets a little more likely and could help boost the economy.

Broadband is an essential service for business and despite this positive change in the law, many UK business owners still know that broadband services in the UK can sometimes be patchy and often expensive, while ‘Which?’ research shows that the UK ranks only 31st in the world for average broadband speeds. Those businesses in rural areas are also finding themselves facing the challenge of a growing digital divide between rural and urban that is adversely affecting their competitiveness.

Even with this change in the law, being able to meet the target of national full-fibre coverage by 2025 is a big ask and it is estimated that the UK may only have 7% full-fibre coverage by 2020.