Failure to Improve Rural Mobile Phone Coverage

Government has yielded to the demands of mobile phone multi-nationals in its new Electronic Communications Code for mobile masts – now we must see real and demonstrable improvements in rural reception, say rural businesses.

Changes to the Electronic Communications Code have been included in the Digital Economy Bill. The changes see the removal of the rights of individuals to negotiate an open-market commercial agreement with network operators for access to land or property, in favour of imposed agreements. The CLA is working to ensure that the imposed agreements properly reflect the true losses of the landowner, such as the obligation to provide access.

Mobile phone mast above Musbury

Mobile phone mast above Musbury
© Copyright Derek Harper
and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The CLA, which represents 33,000 landowners, farmers and rural businesses in England and Wales, is stressing that the new Code must be accompanied by a commitment to deliver better coverage for people in rural areas.

CLA Senior Rural Business Adviser Charles Trotman said:
“The Digital Economy Bill enshrines in law the Universal Service Obligation for broadband of at least 10mbps by 2020. People living and working in rural areas will finally get the legal guarantee of internet connection that the CLA has campaigned to secure for so many years. It is time to end the discrimination felt in rural areas and we will continue working to ensure this law delivers for rural communities.

“Progress on improving mobile coverage in rural areas, however, has been slow going. Government and the mobile industry made a deal 18 months ago based on legally guaranteeing coverage for 90% of the geographic landmass of the UK by end of 2017. Ever since, the industry has lined up excuse after excuse and there is scant evidence of progress towards the 90% promise. The most recent figures show mobile coverage for only 55% of the country.

“The major concessions in the new Electronic Communications Code have been valued by the Government’s own economic analysis at more than £1billion in benefit to the mobile operators. Government must ensure that this translates to better coverage for rural people, who have had to put up with a second class service for far too long. Surely the mobile operators can have no excuses left.

“We will be working with Ministers as the Bill progresses to help ensure the improvements to mobile coverage that are so desperately needed by businesses to help grow the rural economy, and by people to stay safe and connected in rural areas.”

The CLA continues to call on Ministers to include legislation in the Digital Economy Bill to ensure mobile phone companies honour existing land access contracts, and not to permit companies to terminate existing contracts in order to take advantage of more favourable terms under the new Code.


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