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Fruits of fibre

Nick Morgan looks at some of the implications of the roll-out of superfast broadband.

The Scottish Government has invested heavily in initiatives which provide broadband to rural and urban areas with a view to Scotland becoming a "world class digital nation" by 2020.

About 500 million has been allocated to get superfast fibre traffic flowing, and the Government is working alongside major players in its delivery, with grant funding for community projects and even some enterprising residents coming together and "self-delivering".

Scotland currently sits at about 85% of its 95% target for area-wide access to fibre broadband with a download speed higher than 2Mbps (megabits per second). Some 50,000 homes have been 'enabled' in the past three months.

More recent discussions are looking to increase this requirement to 10Mbps with most households on speeds of 38Mbps and above. These are the speeds generally required to stream something like BBC iPlayer.

Fibre optic cables have started to replace copper cables which are unable to provide these improved internet speeds. A great deal of this replacement work can be done in conjunction with existing infrastructure either by running it alongside or by taking its place.

In many locations new infrastructure is required. This may be on previously unused routes, requiring either new wood poles or the underground installation of cables. Landowners with new installations or additional cables attached to poles on their land should be entitled to receive a wayleave payment, although this payment is not due in all circumstances. These payments are paid to the landowner on either an annual basis or capitalised as a one-off lump sum.

Where cables are to be installed underground it is very important for landowners to ensure that they receive all relevant details in writing and specifically seek confirmation of the depth and location of these installations, or details of where any poles would be installed for above-ground services.

Before any of this happens a wayleave agreement should be presented for signature and this will have an associated payment attached to it. A number of other aspects may first need to be confirmed by the telecoms provider, such as confirmation of liability for damage to property caused by access for cable or pole maintenance and confirmation of payment for any losses that result. 

Other key considerations include the effect on field and roadside drainage which could both by severely affected by underground telecommunications cables if the installation is not carefully planned and monitored. Land with either planning permission or development potential raises other issues for the route taken by the cables.

CKD Galbraith has a breadth of experience in a range of utilities and infrastructure projects and can also offer advice on planning related matters throughout Scotland.