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UK laws to boost digital infrastructure come into force

UK laws designed to support the deployment of new digital infrastructure have now come into force.19 Jul 2017

UK government ministers have the power to create a new Electronic Communications Code under the Digital Economy Act. The relevant sections of the Act, which received Royal Assent in April, have now been brought into force after the UK's digital minister Matt Hancock signed a commencement order.

The UK government put forward its plans for a new Electronic Communications Code in May last year. The Code sets out rights and obligations in relation to the deployment and maintenance of mobile phone masts and other telecoms infrastructure. In March, UK telecoms regulator Ofcom set out a draft code of practice, which would sit alongside a new Electronic Communications Code, to govern how telecoms operators and landowners should interact with one another over the installation, maintenance and upgrade of electronic communications infrastructure.

Under the government's proposals, landowners would have less freedom to charge premium prices for the use of their property by telecoms companies. This is because, under the plans, rent rates would effectively be based on the underlying value of the land.

The proposed new code would also make it easier for telecoms companies to upgrade and share their equipment, such as masts or cables, without having to pay landowners extra, unless there is more than a 'minimal adverse impact' on the appearance of the apparatus or the landowner would face an additional burden as a result of the works.

The new framework would only apply to agreements entered into after the new Code comes into force.

The government also announced that other provisions of the Digital Economy Act which have now come into force include laws that impose new obligations on companies that provide access to online pornography in the UK to ensure that material can only be accessed by adults aged 18 or over. New powers to tackle the use of 'bots' to bypass limits on maximum event ticket purchase limits have also been introduced into law.