One of the first items of business when the House of Lords returned to work under COVID-19 restrictions was the second reading of a Bill which will fast track court action against  freeholders who refuse to respond to telecoms companies requests to do work to enable leaseholders to connect to broadband networks.

The Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill 2019-21, which had already passed through the Commons, is now passing quickly through the House of Lords stages. You can follow its progress here.

Apartment blocks or buildings converted to flats can be especially difficult to connect.  The telecoms operators need the building’s owner to give permission for them to install equipment in the common parts of the building, such as stairwells and landings.

In practice, an operator will attempt to contact the building’s owner and offer to negotiate a long-term agreement on access.  These access agreements—or wayleaves as they are often known—set out the responsibilities of both the building’s owner and telecoms operator for installation, maintenance and future access. It is these agreements that allow residents to be connected.

However, 40% of such requests for access are simply ignored, Baroness Barran, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, told the Lords.  Tens of thousands of households may otherwise be left behind in the digital economy if action is not taken, she said. (Hansard).

The Government expects that the law will encourage more freeholders simply to do the right thing without actually being taken to Court.


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