On Friday 20th March, the UK government granted ‘Key Worker’ status to the utilities and communications sector, including data infrastructure and telecommunication services.
The Government has issued its most recent guidance on telecommunications infrastructure deployment, that sets out and clarifies that telecommunications, including mobile networks, are a critical sector in new Government regulations and legislation, recognising the ongoing importance of the telecommunications industry at this critical time.
this guidance, which will be of great help to our workforce who, while following strict NHS guidelines, are continuing to ensure that our networks remain resilient and keep the UK connected.
The UK’s mobile operators are taking all practical measures to maintain, and where possible, improve the stability of the network by concentrating their available resources on tasks that are absolutely essential to supporting our critical national infrastructure, protecting vulnerable consumers and supporting customers working from home and doing their utmost to protect the most vulnerable in society.
the new guidance which clearly states that telecoms workers are key to the national effort and that in doing their jobs it is important they are able to gain site access.
What the regulations mean
Work to repair and maintain the telecommunications network must be allowed to continue at the current time. Gatherings of more than two people are permitted where this is essential for work purposes.
Guidance for Local Authorities and landowners
Local authorities should note the following aspects of how they can continue to work with the telecommunications industry.
Emergency access provision
Where emergency access rights to property have been agreed between the landowner and the telecommunications operator, it remains crucial that they remain able to be relied upon.
Fully operational telecommunications infrastructure is needed to support mass homeworking and critical connectivity to emergency services and hospitals. Network operators must be able to rectify network outages promptly and to mitigate any effects of network degradation over the duration of this emergency period.
Agreements between landlords and telecommunications network providers
Maintaining the integrity of our communications networks is of paramount importance to sustain the increasing demands being placed on them. Landowners and occupiers of land who have entered into agreements with providers of telecommunications networks should continue to meet their obligations under those agreements.
This particularly applies to any contractual obligations to provide access to sites to inspect, maintain, adjust, repair or upgrade electronic communications equipment.
It is vital that such access is provided for emergency repairs, routine maintenance and critical upgrades, under existing contractual arrangements.
For unoccupied properties , landowners should consider putting in place steps to help facilitate the access by operators.
The Highways Authorities and Utilities Committee (England) has published a joint statement with the Government, the Joint Authorities Group and Streetworks UK, advising practitioners on operating responsibly to help control the spread of Covid-19.
Works involving network maintenance and fault repairs, customer repairs, network build, and increasing network capacity should be allowed to continue. Workers must follow the guidance about taking precautions to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Public health considerations
Where telecoms workers and operators need to enter residential properties, they and residents should follow the guidance on social distancing for everyone in the UK.
DCMS has established a dedicated team for the data centre sector: The DCMS Data Infrastructure Resilience Team. They understand the critical role that data centres play and are ensuring that this is understood across government. The team is expecting questions and has already established a mailbox: COVIDemail@example.com for queries from data centre operators, customers and suppliers.