Thank you for contacting me about land ownership and the installation of telecommunications infrastructure and the campaign #MobileMastRipOff.
I recognise that there are serious concerns about this issue, and that many landowners feel that they are unable to reach a fair deal with operators of telecommunications infrastructure.
The Electronic Communications Code was previously reformed in 2017, with the aim of supporting faster and easier deployment and of encouraging industry investment in the UK’s digital infrastructure. However, the Government now states that it has identified three problem areas that it is seeking to address regarding negotiations and operation of completed agreements, rights to upgrade and share equipment, and difficulties with the renewal of expired agreements.
It held a consultation which ended on 24 March 2021 and it states that it will publish its response in due course. It’s evident from first hand accounts that without proper regulation telecommunication companies have taken advantage of landowners, and not offered them a fair price. I am also concerned with reports that the significant cut in landowner rents on offer will reduce uptake in new installations of this important technology. I will follow developments on this matter, and work to make sure all parties involved are suitably compensated.
I believe the Government needs to take a wider view of the issues facing broadband roll-out, and I am concerned it has not taken sufficient action over the last ten years to maintain the country’s leading position as a digital nation.
I therefore supported an amendment to the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Act which would have required an assessment into the Code’s suitability to support universal access to gigabit broadband by 2025 and would have plugged holes in the consultation on changes to the Code. Unfortunately, this amendment was voted down.
More widely, I believe that the pandemic has shown us how important good fast stable broadband is, with so many people depending on it to work from home and to stay in contact with friends and family. It is without doubt a vital utility. I am concerned that the Government keeps changing its targets and rolling back on its commitments, and that we do not know its overall strategy for broadband roll-out. We need a clear strategy which provides direction and focus to businesses, healthy competition and lower prices for consumers.