The aim of this Act is to help accelerate the delivery of fast, reliable and secure broadband networks. It was given Royal Assent on 15 March 2021 but is not yet in force.
The aim of the Act is to make it easier to install broadband infrastructure in tenanted property and applies where a consent has been requested from the landlord but they have failed to respond. What the Act has done is introduce a new Part 4A into the Communications Act 2003 which gives operators a right to apply to the Court in these circumstances to impose an agreement on a landlord. It applies to premises if they form part of a building which contains two or more separate dwellings but will also apply to other premises specified in the Regulations that will subsequently be made by the Secretary of State.
Before an operator can apply to the Court for an Order, they must have made an initial request for code rights followed by two warning notices and a final notice in the required form and at prescribed intervals. The landlord must have failed to respond to these notices.
If the Court is forced to impose an agreement, then it will last up to a maximum of 18 months. The intention will be that during that period the operator will either seek to reach a more permanent agreement with the landlord or would apply to the Tribunal to have the rights imposed using the existing code process. Landlords will be relieved to know that the Act does include provisions for the Courts to order the operator to pay compensation for any loss or damage sustained by the landlord.
It is expected that further Regulations will be made by the Secretary of State before the Act comes into force. These will include further conditions to be satisfied by the operator. The terms to be included in the Part 4A Agreement and the duration. Prior to making those Regulations the Secretary of State is required to consult with operators and landlords and the Act will come into force on a date specified in those Regulations.
While the Act is not yet in force, it is indicative of things to come. In general, it remains the case that where a tenant makes a reasonable request for connectivity, a landlord is advised to engage with the tenant to find a solution that works for both parties and avoid the potential that, down the line, they may have that decision, including who, what and when removed from their control.