New legislation in pipeline to help with broadband in apartment blocks

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New legislation in pipeline to help with broadband in apartment blocks

New legislation in pipeline to help with broadband in apartment blocks

The Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill (“Bill”) had its first reading in Parliament on 8 January 2020. It was published prior to the general election, but now the process begins for it to be debated and eventually passed into law.

The Bill addresses a significant issue in the rollout of digital infrastructure, which is the primary aim of the Electronic Communications Code (“Code”). Many apartment blocks are owned by corporate investors who have very little interest in the day-to-day running of the buildings. So when residents seek to have fast fibre broadband installed to improve their internet connectivity those requests often go ignored. The Government’s solution is to allow Code agreements to be imposed on landlords if they fail to respond, as set out in the Bill.

The Bill creates a sort of three strike system. Operators may apply to the court for an order imposing interim Code rights if the landlord or other relevant occupier fails to respond to three warning notices following an initial request for consent to “provide an electronic communications service to the target premises”. The proposed timeframe is narrow, with the operator potentially being able to apply to the court 42 days after the service of the initial request notice. The court would then be able to grant what would be known as a Part 4A Order for interim Code rights which have effect for a limited period of no more than 18 months. It is important to point out that under the Bill any written response to a notice, including a refusal of consent, would prevent the imposition of a Part 4A Order. An order can only be made if the landlord fails to respond in writing.

The Bill as currently drafted applies to any building containing two or more dwellings, so its scope is fairly wide. The most obvious use for it is in the context of installing broadband services, but it could equally be used for the installation of other types of electronic communications.

If the Bill makes it into law then it could make the process of obtaining wayleave agreements quicker and easier in many instances. That is assuming that the courts have the capacity to deal with applications that come in for Part 4A Orders and can turn them around quickly.

For more information on this, please contact Graham Jones, or you can give us a call on 0345 070 6000.