PSTI Bill reforms the Electronic Communications Code for telecoms infrastructure deployment
Reforms to the Electronic Communications Code are set to become law as DCMS introduces the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure (PSTI) Bill, which government suggests will further accelerate the rollout of mobile and fixed infrastructure. Part 2 of the PSTI Bill details these changes to the Code, while Part 1 legislates strengthened security for consumer IoT devices.
The introduction of the PSTI Bill coincided with the publication of the government response to its March 2021 consultation on reforming the Code, which received over 1200 submissions. DCMS describes the difficulties telecoms operators and landowners are experiencing when negotiating requests for rights to install, use and upgrade telecoms infrastructure, as hampering the speed at which mobile and fixed infrastructure is deployed. Negotiations are protracted, with limited options to find resolutions in a timely manner. Further problems include unresponsive landowners, and strict limitations on operators' ability to upgrade and share their equipment which are stopping existing networks being used as efficiently as possible.
For further information on the ECC, issues since it was reformed in 2017, and detailed evidence from interested stakeholders in the ECC ecosystem, visit the APPG for Broadband and Digital Communication Inquiry page: #BetterBroadband.
DCMS has set out how it sees the PSTI Bill tackle many of the issues with the Code through a range of measures designed to foster more collaborative and quicker negotiations, and better working relationships between mobile network operators and landowners. This includes:
- A new requirement for telecoms operators to consider the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) - a way of resolving disputes that does not involve going to court such as mediation or arbitration - in cases where there are difficulties in agreeing terms. Operators will also be required to explain the availability of ADR as an option in their notices to landowners.
- New automatic rights for operators to upgrade and share underground infrastructure - such as fibre optic cables - which were installed prior to the 2017 Code reforms and are not currently covered. This is in cases where there will be no impact on private land or burden on the site provider.
- New rules to allow operators to apply for time-limited access to certain types of land more quickly where a landowner does not respond to repeated requests for permission.
- New provisions to speed-up negotiations for renewal agreements. Operators who already have infrastructure installed under an expired agreement will have the right to either renew it on similar terms to those for new agreements, or request a new one.
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