The Cabinet Siting and Pole Siting Code of Practice (the “Code of Practice”) was developed in 2016 by the Government, in collaboration with two major fixed-line operators and other interested parties. The Code of Practice provides guidance on ways operators can ensure these installations are placed appropriately, and that local authorities and communities are engaged with regarding the proposals.
The Code of Practice is not mandatory, but the operators who helped develop and are signatories to it carry out a high proportion of all network delivery across the UK. We also understand a number of other operators are aware of, and adhere to, the Code of Practice. The Government has not undertaken any formal assessment of its effectiveness to date, but we are aware that Parliamentarians and constituents have concerns about the approach some operators are taking to deployment, particularly telegraph pole installations. Officials are working to raise awareness and encourage sign up to the Code of Practice across the sector and we will monitor progress.
Separately to the Code of Practice, the Electronic Communications Code (Conditions and Restrictions) Regulations 2003 set out statutory requirements for telecoms operators subject to the Electronic Communications Code. We are focusing our attention on making sure that deployment happens in accordance with these existing regulations so that the impact on communities and the environment is taken into account and that broad support is maintained for the rollout of this critical infrastructure. We do not want to see poor operator practice undermine a programme that will ultimately be of huge value to the people we represent.
With that in mind, I have written to all Local Planning Authorities, asking that they notify Ofcom and provide evidence of any instances where they believe operators have failed to comply with their duties under the Electronic Communications Code (Conditions and Restrictions) Regulations 2003. These duties include requirements to share apparatus where practicable; to use underground, rather than overground, lines where reasonably practicable, with certain exceptions; and when installing apparatus, to minimise the impact on the visual amenity of properties, potential hazards and interference with traffic as far as reasonably practicable.
I have also written to the Chief Executive of Ofcom. As the independent regulator for telecommunications operators, Ofcom is able to investigate and take enforcement action in respect of breaches of the restrictions and conditions contained in the above regulations. I have asked that Ofcom ensure their enforcement powers are used when appropriate and that they keep me informed of any developments.