PPS 10: Telecommunications
Policy and Legislative Context: Regulations of Telecommunications
2.7 Telecommunications legislation and regulation is reserved to the UK Parliament and administered by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Legislative responsibility for town and country planning is devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly .
Telecommunications Legislation and Regulation
2.8 Operators of public telecommunications systems in the UK require a licence issued by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry under the Telecommunications Act 1984. In order to facilitate the installation and maintenance of these systems the Act provides that the Secretary of State in issuing a licence may grant some operators special rights and obligations. These are set out in Schedule 2 of the 1984 Act, known as ‘the telecommunications code’ and hence these operators are commonly known as Code System Operators.
2.9 The Office of Telecommunications (OFTEL) , a non-ministerial Government Department, regulates the UK telecoms industry under the 1984 Act by monitoring, enforcing and modifying the conditions attached to telecommunications licences. It is these conditions that specify operators’ rights and obligations. The Northern Ireland Advisory Committee on Telecommunications (NIACT) is appointed by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to ensure that OFTEL and the companies that supply telephone networks, communication services and equipment take account of the needs of all consumers in Northern Ireland. To reflect the growing convergence between the broadcasting, telecommunications and information technology sectors, the Government proposes to create a new unified regulator for the electronic communications sector, the Office of Communications (OFCOM) . This new regulator will replace all of the following: OFTEL; the Independent Television Commission (ITC) ; the Broadcasting Standards Commission ; the Radiocommunications Agency ; and the Radio Authority .
2.10 The Government White Paper entitled ‘A New Future for Communications’ issued in December 2000 sets out the proposed new framework for communications regulation in the 21st century. It seeks to ensure that the UK is home to the most dynamic and competitive communications market in the world and to maintain the UK’s competitive advantage in the rapidly changing international marketplace.
2.11 In addition to a licence required under the Telecommunications Act operators who provide telecommunication services by means of radio may require a licence issued under the Wireless Telegraphy Act (1949 and 1968) to use the radio spectrum. The Radiocommunications Agency (RA), an Executive Agency of the DTI, is responsible for the allocation, maintenance and supervision of the UK Radio Spectrum under the Wireless Telegraphy Act. The licensing process includes, where necessary, putting the transmitting sites through a radio site clearance procedure. This addresses issues such as radio interference, aviation safety and the need to minimise the number and optimise the use of sites, masts and other apparatus by sharing facilities. This clearance procedure is not a pre-requisite for planning approval and it is usually initiated after such approval is obtained.