The Digital Economy Act: introducing the “New Code”

The 27th April 2017 brought the Digital Economy Act, a refreshed version of the previous Digital Economy Act of 2010. As well as updating sentencing for criminal copyright infringement, the most interesting aspect is the so called “New Code”, which replaces the existing electronic communications code found in both the Telecommunications Act 1984 and the Communications Act 2003.

The Electronic Communications Code (ECC) has not been brought up to date since its founding in 1984, with only minor alterations being made between then and now. However, the new act brings about necessary changes. In short, the new ECC makes the process of erecting mobile masts infinitely easier.

The “New Code” is as follows

  1. Landowners no longer need to seek to exclude telecoms leases from the security of tenure provisions of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954

  2. New leases for telecoms cannot limit rights of the operators to assign the lease in future or enforce any circumstances for such assignment to a different telecoms operator

  3. Telecoms operators can now share the occupation of land with other telecoms operators at the same time – this could reduce landowner’s income from the leases in the future

  4. Operators can now upgrade the relevant equipment providing it does not have “more than a minimal adverse impact” on the aesthetics of the equipment and the changes must also place no extra burden on the landowner

  5. New telecoms leases will count as overriding interests, thus capable of binding successors in title, even where they are not registered

  6. Where the landowner and operator cannot agree terms the court now has the power to enact the new code onto the landowner. This occurs under two conditions; firstly, if the financial compensation is adequate to overcome any prejudice caused to the said landowner, and secondly where the public benefit to the new code would outweigh the prejudice to the landowner

  7. When it comes to ending a lease granted with the new code the landowner must provide a minimum of 18 months notice to the operator. Additionally, the landowner must have fulfilled one of the following:

  • Breaches in obligations

  • Delays in rent payments

  • Redevelopment of the land

If any of the above are satisfied then termination under the new code is possible.