Rural areas will keep missing out unless phone mast deals are fair: The Yorkshire Post says

No one can doubt that rural areas of Yorkshire are badly in need of improved mobile signal and internet connections but exactly how this is delivered is a thorny issue for a number of reasons.

Phone masts have become a subject of controversy for many landowners who host them.
Phone masts have become a subject of controversy for many landowners who host them.

Such a rollout is dependent on having the right digital infrastructure in place in local areas. But one issue increasingly coming onto the radar is the unhappiness of landowners like farmers, sports clubs and churches who have agreed to have phone masts on their land - but are now having massive rent cuts imposed by telecoms giants which they are being told they either have to accept or face court.

As former Labour MP Anna Turley, who is now chair of the Protect and Connect campaign opposing these measures, notes today the issues stem from the arrival of the Electronic Communications Code which was made law in 2017. It was intended to significantly reduce the amount operators had to pay site providers, thereby making network deployment more cost-effective.

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While that appeared laudable in principle, it has led to bitter contract renegotiations that last for almost a year on average and is perversely slowing down the rollout of technologies like 5G because of drawn-out talks and the situation putting other landowners off providing their sites. The Government itself has admitted the current code is not working effectively either for landowners and operators - which by extension means the public are missing out.

Changes to the code are now being considered following a consultation earlier this year - coming up with a fairer system is in everyone’s interests.

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