Broadband operator Virgin Media won a legal battle with a local council over fees it pays to access publicly owned land to carry out infrastructure work, in a landmark ruling.
The company said it had reached an agreement with Durham County Council which will see it only pay £1 for land access to the sites under dispute. Previously, the authority had asked Virgin to cough up large fees to access the land to install the infrastructure that will connect ultrafast broadband to homes across the county.
Liberty Global-owned Virgin Media was on the verge of taking the case to a tribunal, before Durham backed down and decided to charge the company the very small fee for land access.
The case was the first test of the reformed Electronic Communications Code, which last year was changed to give telecoms companies easier land access rights to speed up the rollout of fast broadband.
Virgin's victory sets an important bench mark for the rest of the country and will settle other disputes regarding the roll out of ultrafast broadband in the rest of the country.
Tom Mockridge, chief exec of Virgin Media, said:
This agreement with Durham sets a much needed precedent which will speed up broadband rollout and encourage investment. We hope that other local authorities and landowners now follow Durham’s example.
Most importantly, this is fantastic news for the residents and businesses of Durham as we can now continue the good work we started with Durham Country Council and bring a real broadband boost to local communities across the county.