CLA, NFU and Openreach Wayleave Deal Means Fast Rural Broadband

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Good news. A newly negotiated Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and wayleave (access) agreement between key UK landowners and Openreach (BT) has today been announced, which means that the telecoms giant should find it easier to extend their superfast broadband ISP network(s) into rural areas.

The new agreement, which has been signed with both the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) and National Farmers’ Union (NFU), aims to make it easier for Openreach to reach agreement with landowners over both locations and payment rates for cables and other electronic communications apparatus.

Exact details of the arrangement haven’t been made clear, although it will formally come into operation from 1st October 2018.

Mark Bridgeman, CLA Deputy President, said:

“Landowners are a committed and crucial part of the solution to alleviate the rural-urban digital divide. It has taken almost 18 months of hard negotiation but we have secured an agreement that satisfies the Government, the infrastructure providers and our members.

We have shown, through constructive dialogue across the industry, that rollout is not driven by price alone. A proportionate increase in the annual wayleave payment, coupled with clear documentation and an effective Memorandum of Understanding, will hasten the rollout of fixed line broadband beyond what is achievable by the revised Electronic Communications Code alone.

A robust and effective national framework has been created which brings much needed clarity and stability to the market while at the same time injecting more money into the rural economy through accelerated deployment.”

Stuart Roberts, NFU Vice President, said:

“The NFU and CLA have worked closely together to provide the means to enable landowners to easily reach an agreement with Openreach, bringing much-needed, effective broadband to rural areas.

Statistics from the NFU show that a considerable amount of farmers do not have access to superfast broadband and in an increasingly digital world, it is crucial that our digital communications are fit for purpose. This initiative marks another step forward to ensuring our members have all they need to establish and maintain productive, profitable and progressive farming businesses.”

Kim Mears, Openreach’s MD of Strategic Infrastructure, said:

“We know that people in rural areas want fast, reliable broadband. They also want a fair deal when companies need to access their land or install equipment on it. That’s why our new framework is great news for the countryside. It gives landowners certainty and clarity on our pricing and is endorsed by the CLA and NFU. The agreement will also help us speed up our rural build programme and drive the UK’s digital growth.

As Britain’s leading digital infrastructure provider, we’ve invested more than £11 billion over the last decade to build a better, broader and faster network – and few countries in the world have such widespread superfast broadband coverage as we do here. But we know that some people are still waiting for decent broadband, and we’re keen to help the Government and Ofcom finish the job. This is a great step towards achieving that.”

Disputes over complex wayleave agreements can sometimes make it far too difficult or expensive for network builders to expand their coverage into digitally disadvantaged communities. Nevertheless the first hints that a change was coming occurred last month, when the government, telecoms operators and landowners jointly agreed to support the reformed Electronic Communications Code (here).

All of this will be necessary in order to help support the Government’s wider aspiration, which seeks to achieve 95% geographic UK coverage of mobile networks by 2022 and to cover the entire country in “full fibre” (FTTP) infrastructure by 2033 (here). On top of that it may also help to support the forthcoming 10Mbps+ Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband, which will focus on some of the most digitally isolated areas.

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