This Library briefing paper provides an analysis of the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill 2019-20. It includes background information and stakeholder comment. The Bill was introduced to the House of Commons and given its First Reading on 8 January 2020. Second reading took place on 22 January 2020.
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The new Conservative Government has a target to deliver nationwide gigabit-capable broadband by 2025. Meeting this target is a large national infrastructure project. The Government’s approach is that private companies will provide investment for most of this infrastructure UK-wide in exchange for future revenue streams. The Government has committed to provide funding for areas not reached by private investment because they are less commercially viable.
The telecoms industry argue that the Government’s broadband targets are not feasible without “urgent” policy reform to address barriers that are holding back roll out. This Bill aims to address one stated policy barrier: making it easier for telecoms companies to access multi-dwelling buildings (such as blocks of flats) where a tenant has requested a new connection, but the landlord has not responded to requests for access rights.
Further background information about the Government’s broadband policy is provided in the Library briefing paper: Full-fibre broadband in the UK.
The Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill 2019-20 was introduced to the House of Commons on 8 January 2020. The second reading of the Bill took place on 22 January 2020. The Bill passed second reading without a division and received cross-party support. The Labour Party, although welcoming the aim of the Bill, did not think it would go far enough to address the Government’s aims on broadband.
The Bill would amend Electronic Communications Code (the Code), contained in Schedule 3A to the Communications Act 2003 (as amended).
The Bill would insert a new Part 4A. The new Part 4A would provide a process that telecommunications operators could use to gain access rights (called “code rights”) to multi-dwelling premises for a defined period. The process would only apply where:
- a lessee in occupation in multi-dwelling building has requested a telecommunications service from an operator;
- to connect the property the telecoms operator requires an access agreement with another person such as the landlord; and
- the landlord has not responded to the telecoms operator’s request for access.
The Bill sets out steps that telecoms operators must take before applying to the court, such as the number of warning notices that must be given. Code rights, if granted, would only be for an interim period to be set by the Secretary of State by regulations and would be no more than 18 months.
The new process would come into force on a day appointed by the Secretary of State in regulations. There are delegated powers in the Bill for which statutory instruments are required before the Bill comes into effect. For example, regulations will set out the terms of an agreement that can be imposed by the court under the new procedure. These regulations would require consultation with stakeholders and be made by the affirmative procedure. Other regulation making powers in the Bill use the negative procedure.
The Bill would apply to the whole of the UK because telecommunications is a reserved power.
The second reading of the Bill took place on 22 January 2020. The Bill passed second reading without a division and received cross-party support. The Labour Party, although welcoming the aim of the Bill, did not think it would go far enough to address the Government’s aims on broadband.
The Committee Stage of the Bill took place on 11 February 2020. There were three Government amendments made that related to changing the Court in which Part 4A proceedings would be heard, from the Lands Tribunal, to be the First-Tier Tribunal (in England and Wales) and the sheriff court (in Scotland). This was due to resource capacity issues raised in relation to the Lands Tribunal.
The Opposition tabled six amendments that sought to add additional conditions for when the Part 4A process could be initiated. Two amendments were pushed to a division but did not pass.
Report stage and third reading
Report stage and third reading are scheduled for 10 March 2020.