MPs call for councils to help support UK gigabit rollout

UK MPs have called on local council authorities to help support the wider rollout of 5G networks and gigabit-capable broadband. The government has claimed that some deals for telecoms operators to access private and public land to build new networks “are not progressing quickly enough”.

The MPs have called for councils to take measures such as changing advice regarding land access and valuations in order to quicken the pace of deployment. The new guidance comes from Digital Minister Matt Warman and Local Government Minister Simon Clarke.

The reformed 2017 Electronic Communications Code (ECC) was intended to make it cheaper and easier for operators to access land and build networks, but has instead lead to disputes between land owners and operators.

While councils are typically obliged to seek the best value regarding deals for land access, MPs are calling for them to now consider “non-monetary benefits”, such as the many advantages of better broadband connectivity, when making their decisions. It is hoped that this would make it easier for operators to build networks, utilising sites such as public rooftops etc.

Warman and Clarke emphasise that councillors and non-elected officials have the power to drive strategies for improved connectivity in their local areas. The letter also calls for councils to appoint a “digital champion” to help ensure a cohesive strategy across digital infrastructure and to make use of DCMS’s “barrier busting” team, which is dedicated to making telecoms rollouts easier.

They have also issued a guide to 5G, to help answer any questions and dispel unfounded conspiracy theories about the health implications of 5G, with Ofcom and Public Health England both saying that 5G has “no consequences to public health”.

Matt Warman said: “We want to help people get access to fast and reliable connectivity. It is a top priority for this government. Councils have a vital role to play in the rollout of digital infrastructure and while there is good work going on up and down the country, there is more we can do.”

“Today I’m writing to local authorities with new guidance and advice to help them break down some of the barriers to rollout and give them the tools they need to quell quack theories about 5G.”

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