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28 June 2012
In a consultation opening today, the Law Commission is seeking views on how the Electronic Communications Code is working for those who use it, and what can be done to make it more transparent and user-friendly.
The Electronic Communications Code gives electronic communications network providers rights to install and maintain their equipment – such as masts, cables and conduits – on public and private land. It is vital to delivering broadband, mobile internet, cable TV, mobile phones and landlines to the whole of the UK.
Network providers and landowners can often reach satisfactory agreement over rights of access to private land. But when they can't, a network provider can apply to the court, under the Code, for an order giving it the right to access land and install equipment. If an order is made, the landowner is entitled to a financial award.
The Code, which is part of the Telecommunications Act 1984, was drafted 30 years ago and has been criticised by courts and users of the Code as being unclear and inaccessible. This consultation is a first step in the Commission's general review of the Code, which will:
- examine whether, and to what extent, the Code has fallen out of step with modern requirements
- identify, and resolve, the issues that are causing problems for courts and practitioners
- assess the balance struck between the rights of network providers, landowners and service users, and
- review the ways in which disputes are resolved.
Professor Elizabeth Cooke, the Law Commissioner leading the project, says:
“Reform in this area of law is becoming increasingly urgent. Facilitating the reach of e-communications is crucial to the UK, not only to support our economy but also to provide us with the modern electronic infrastructure we need as an increasingly interactive society.
"Our aim is to bring greater clarity to the statutory framework and enable issues arising under the Code to be dealt with more efficiently and proportionately. Our work will support the Government's aim of delivering the best superfast broadband network in Europe”.
The Electronic Communications Code applies across the UK. While the current review is confined to England and Wales, the Commission will comment in its Report on any issues of law raised on consultation that are specific to Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Details of the consultation can be found here:
Opens: June 28 2012
Closes: October 28 2012