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Government urges councils to back plans for connectivity infrastructure


Government ministers have written to local authorities urging them to support the roll out of gigabit broadband and 5G networks.

Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman and Local Government Minister Simon Clarke have encouraged councils to follow new guidance on land access and valuations. This is aimed at reaching deals more quickly to grant access for new infrastructure such as 5G masts and full fibre broadband cabinets on public land, and to ensure that reasonable rents are attached.

They have said that, while councils are obliged to get best value from land access agreements, they are also expected to take into account non-monetary benefits such as improving connectivity for homes and businesses.

The guidance on the Digital Connectivity Portal also highlights recent legal interpretations of the current framework which point towards reductions in rents.

Appoint champions

In addition, the ministers have asked councils to appoint digital champions to work across multiple teams on a cohesive infrastructure strategy, and encouraged them to use central government’s dedicated ‘barrier busting’ team in removing the obstacles to roll out.

They have also shared new guidance on the safety and benefits of 5G, following a spate of attacks against digital infrastructure during lockdown and increased opposition to some local planning applications for phone masts. These have often been spurred by online conspiracy theories claiming a link between 5G and the spread of Covid-19.

Warman (pictured) 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 roll out 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.”

Image by Chris McAndrew, CC BY 3.0

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