Better mobile coverage or more money for landowners?
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is apparently angry over plans that might see Government legislation capping the amount that landowners can charge for hosting a mobile mast.
"It is wholly unjustified for Ministers to impose radical changes to the law because of unfounded claims from telecoms companies arguing that landowners are charging ransom rents. The proposals will allow future governments to conspire with multi-national communications giants to ride roughshod over the property rights of thousands of landowners throughout rural Britain."CLA President Henry Robinson
The CLA website itself reveals that currently landowners can expect to be paid several thousand pounds a year for hosting a mobile mast, but just a few hundred for an electricity pylon. It is thought that the Government is trying to get the wayleave cost down to much closer to that of a pylon which share a similar sized footprint.
Given the poor mobile and broadband coverage in rural areas that the CLA and many other rural business associations are fond of highlighting one cannot help but be confused over the CLA campaigning for over ten years for better broadband and yet by insisting that wayleaves remain expensive for the least populated areas they are actually stifling attempts to improve mobile voice and broadband coverage.
Back in 2013, the CLA itself recommended new rates for wayleaves to its members, amounting to 25p per metre per year of duct across their land. There was a recommendation that not for profit or community solutions not be charged in return for a free connection.
Another major issue with the wayleave system is not just the level of payments, but that it can take a long time to reach an agreement, and this has certainly led to some Openreach cabinets seeing their roll-out delayed based on feedback from enquires we have made in the last year on the behalf of frustrated members of the public.
If rural mobile masts continue to cost several thousands pounds a year in wayleave the chances of reaching the promised coverage levels are very low, or the cost of mobile services will have to increase to cope with the levels of loss that rural masts in sparsely populated would then sustain.