Following the broadband money

CLA to produce a national broadband wayleave deal

with 4 comments

The Country Landowners Association (CLA) is working on a national wayleave agreement that could regulate relationships between landowners and broadband network builders and speed up the provision of high speed broadband in rural areas.

A draft of the agreement has been sent to the National Farmers Union (NFU), which shares a high percentage of members with the CLA. But lawyers for the NFU have questioned the impact of competition legislation on the agreement, suggesting that it might run foul of cartel provisions in the law.

The CLA is currently clarifying this impact, and if it exists, will seek an exemption in the light of the public interest in such an agreement. It hopes to complete the agreement by mid-October.

The proposed agreement is advisory rather than mandatory. The lack of a standard wayleave agreement, even if it is only a guideline, has been seen as an important obstacle to building next generation networks. Many parishes and villages are frustrated by the lack of progress on high speed networks in their areas.

If it comes into force, it will help to regulate negotiations between network builders and landowners on rentals to be paid for crossing land. This will speed up talks and also offer alternatives to BT’s physical infrastructure for network routing, particularly fibre networks, in rural areas.

Around 120 companies have so-called code powers to dig up roads and put in “holes and poles” to install network infrastructure. The proposed CLA agreement would allow firms without code powers to agree deals with local landowners that could give them a competitive advantage over network operators like BT and Virgin Media. However, BT and Virgin Media would also be able to take advantage of the agreement

The present network was optimised for analogue telephony based on copper wires. The design of a digital fibre network would look quite different to the old copper network.

As delegates to the County Broadband conference for Essex parishes heard last night, providing next generation broadband to a village with 100 houses could require separate wayleave agreements with up to 20 landowners, not all of which could be found easily.

This has held up progress on network builds, particularly for the so-called “middle mile” that connects local distribution cabinets to exchanges or points of presence and then to the core national carrier networks and the internet.

Standardising the terms and conditions would at least provide a starting point for negotiations, and speed up the delivery of next generation broadband to parishioners.

The CLA believes this is crucial to narrow the gap between urban and rural broadband access and pricing, to help farmers diversify into sustainable alternatives to farming, as well provide access to public services that are increasingly delivered online, such as renewing licences and submitting taw returns.


Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2011/07/19 at 08:17

4 Responses

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  1. This is vital work, but I think a different sort of easement could be made available to community groups who are not for profit, to the big commercial telcos. If someone puts something through your land which makes them a lot of money then landowners are entitled to a share, or a wayleave. Community networks are very different. They exist for the benefit of the people in the area, of which the landowner is a part. To get a connection to remote areas you need smaller communities on too to share the costs and upkeep. If a landowner wants too much money to cross his land to get to the service to others then everyone will have to wait for infinity. The larger telcos are not interested in delivering a service to remote communities, even if the government gave them the funding.
    For the final 10% special allowances have to be made, which will empower a new breed of network builder, one who works for the people, delivers a futureproof fibre solution and finally fixes the digital divide which is wrecking digital britain. Unless everyone has access to the internet with a robust, reliable and affordable connection the ROI government are wanting will not happen.
    I hope the CLA and NFU can think out of the box, and realise how important it is to get these networks built. We can do it, with their support. If the CLA and NFU really believe it is crucial I am sure they will come up with something for their members. I guess it will depend on how many have been on the vital vision programme? Who knows…
    …we shall see.


    2011/07/19 at 08:36

  2. Could be helpful, though it’s optional and the CLA or NFU probably cover less than 1 in 3 farmers / landowners. So a refusenik could still hold a project to ransom, advised by a clever Land Agent.


    2011/07/19 at 11:39

  3. If this can be achieved then it would be a huge boost and could simplify one of the most tedious parts of deploying new fibre optic broadband links into rural areas. I’m currently waiting for the CLA to give us some kind of official comment before writing anything up.

    Mark - ISPreview

    2011/07/19 at 12:47

    • Hi Mark – I think everyone knows that this is a big deal, especially for the non-incumbent operators. But I understand that the agreement will be a pro forma one, not binding on any party until they reduce it to contract. Of course it does not stop impatient communities doing their own deals with landowners, either now or later.
      I think it’s time the ISPs started talking to the communities directly about what they could bring to the party. As noted elsewhere in these comments, there are some who fear to change because they don’t want to lose their email address. Helping them to overcome those niggles will drive up demand for next generation access and make the whole next generation enterprise less risky for us all.

      Ian Grant

      2011/07/19 at 14:24

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