Digital Economy Act 2017 – a new Electronics Communications Code: where are we now?


The Digital Economy Bill was introduced in Parliament on 5 July 2016 and has now been through all readings in the House of Commons and the 2nd reading took place in the House of Lords on 13 December 2016. The next step is the committee stage in the House of Lords and we currently await that date to be announced.


The Bill covers a number of issues including the creation of a new Electronics Communications Code to replace the current code which was last updated in 2003. The code is designed to facilitate the installation and maintenance of electronic communications networks by giving rights to the operators of these networks to install and maintain apparatus in, over and under land. Ofcom maintain a list of operators who have the benefit of the Code powers.


The Bill aims to lower the cost of infrastructure roll out, incentivise investment and improve connectivity as well as providing clarity to the drafting of the Code.


The current Code has been criticised for being unclear and inaccessible. A new Code was expected to form part of the Infrastructure Act 2016 but the amendments were withdrawn before that act was passed.


Addendum 31 January 2017: the Bill is scheduled to enter the Committee stage in the House of Lords on 31 January 2017 – the next step will then be the 3rd reading before the Bill becomes law.


April 2017 –  further addendum: the Bill completed its 3rd reading in the Lords on 5 April 2017 and has now been passed back to the Commons for consideration of the Lords amendments.


April 2017 –  Royal Assent given


Meanwhile Ofcom is consulting on a number of documents it is required to publish under the  proposed new Electronics Communications Code, i.e. a Code of Practice, standard terms  and template notices to be used by Code operators,  landowners and occupiers  – the consultation closes on 2 July 2017.