This section provides best practice guidance on ways to encourage and provide access to local authority land, buildings and other assets for digital deployment.
The Government is committed to supporting investment in high-quality, reliable digital connectivity so that communities can benefit from faster economic growth and greater social inclusion. It is essential to keep pace with growing demand for internet bandwidth and mobile data from local businesses, residents and those who visit our communities. Creating and maintaining the digital networks that the UK needs depends to a significant extent on communications network operators being able to install, maintain and upgrade their apparatus quickly and efficiently. As potential site providers for digital infrastructure installations, you can play a pivotal role in making this happen.
Agreements that give communications network operators rights to access private and public land and buildings for network installation and maintenance are regulated by the Electronic Communications Code (the Code). The Code was substantially revised in 2017. This guidance sets out best practice principles of which DCMS recommends Local Authorities should be aware when providing communications network operators with rights to access their land and assets, to ensure consistency with the legislative framework and Government policy. The overarching aim of these principles is to help Local Authorities provide access to operators in ways that maximise the use of public sector land, buildings and other assets for providing UK consumers with high quality digital coverage and connectivity.
The Electronic Communications Code covers all types of agreements between site providers and Code operators that deal with rights to install, maintain, upgrade and share electronic communications apparatus. These best practice principles therefore apply to a wide range of scenarios including leases, licences and wayleaves. As well as granting new rights, the Code can apply to the renewal of existing agreements and requests for access to upgrade or maintain infrastructure that is already in place. Local authorities should consider seeking their own legal advice in relation to any aspects of this document. This document is a summary of best practice principles and should not be treated or regarded as legal advice.
Application of the Code to street furniture
The Electronic Communications Code confers rights to install infrastructure on buildings and structures affixed to land, as well as to the land itself. The only exception is electronic communications apparatus - an operator cannot rely on the Code to obtain rights to install electronic communications apparatus on other electronic communications apparatus.
It would therefore appear to follow that rights to install electronic communications apparatus on street furniture (such as lamp-posts or bus stops) are therefore regulated by the Code. These assets can be an ideal resource for the installation of digital infrastructure such as mobile small cells, CCTV systems or sensors.
Best Practice Principles
The Electronic Communications Code regulates all agreements between site providers and Code operators. Requests for access to all types of asset, including street furniture, can and should be dealt with on an individual, ad hoc, “first come, first served” basis. Equally, negotiations with multiple operators can take place in parallel. It is considered that a market engagement exercise as part of a tender or procurement is not required.
Unlike arrangements which involve the provision of services, such as agreements for local area Wi-Fi provision, these agreements only involve the conferring of a right, and not the procurement of services. It would therefore appear to be unnecessary for the local authority to run a procurement exercise before entering into a lease, licence, wayleave, or other form of property right with a Code operator.
Similarly, unless there is an intention to offer exclusivity over an entire estate of assets, it would also appear not to be necessary to offer access through a concession agreement, run under tender. The aim in all cases should be to enter into access agreements on an open access basis, which means exclusivity is not granted, and on terms which reflect Government policy and the legislative framework. Where a concession model approach is preferred, Local Authorities should require the concessionnaire to offer open access to those assets and ensure that the arrangement does not create a ransom situation leading to the imposition of high access or rental fees.
Local Authorities should engage constructively with all requests from communications network operators to use their land, buildings or other assets for digital infrastructure deployment. Such requests should be dealt with as promptly and efficiently as possible, having regard to the importance of digital connectivity for communities.
Local Authorities should refer to the guidance on access agreement form and terms when negotiating actual agreements.
Government would like to include case studies on this page showing a variety of effective commercial models available to local areas who choose to offer their assets for use by investors in digital infrastructure. If you would like to submit a case study, please do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.