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UK government begins legal process to bring about full-fibre roll-out

First steps on the legislative journey for UK government to make good on election commitments to bring full fibre across the UK

Now that UK parliamentarians are back at work following the Christmas recess, the UK government is looking to fulfil its commitment to bringing full fibre across the country, with its legislative journey just beginning.

In the Queen’s Speech on 19 December 2019, Boris Johnson’s newly elected government indicated that it will introduce laws to accelerate the delivery of gigabit-capable broadband across the UK.

In the sections devoted to how the government aims to improve the UK’s technological infrastructure and level up access across the country, the administration promises to support the roll-out of gigabit-capable broadband across the UK with legislation to make it easier for telecoms companies to install digital infrastructure and to ensure all new homes are built with reliable and fast internet.

The broadband legislation is intended to provide benefits such as boosting productivity, driving innovation in public services and “giving people the fast connectivity they need to reap the benefits of the digital revolution”, according to the government. 

The speech also contained measures designed to aim to ensure that all new homes are built with the fastest connectivity available, increasing certainty for businesses investing in gigabit-speed networks. It also has the aim of creating a cheaper and faster light-touch tribunal process for telecoms companies to obtain interim code rights (or access rights) for a period of up to 18 months. 

Such measures, first mooted in October 2019, will mean that suppliers could install broadband connections where a landlord has failed to respond to repeated requests for access. The government has also committed to amending legislation so that all new-build homes are required to have the infrastructure to support gigabit-capable connections.

In getting this underway, and following an earlier unprecedented move where the government mandated UK telecoms regulator Ofcom to make full fibre roll-out a priority, on 8 January the government presented to Parliament and gave a First Reading to the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill 2019-20.

The Bill encompassed a number of key aspects in delivering on the fibre programme, including code rights in respect of land connected to leased premises, circumstances in which an application for a rights order can be made, requirements to be met before applying for an order, when an order can be made and its effect, the exercise of code rights, expiry of code rights, and compensation.

The Bill was introduced without any debate and UK MPs will next consider the Bill at Second Reading at a date which has yet to be announced.  

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