Phone network companies use rights given to them in the 2017 Electronic Communications Code to cut funds when many who rely on the income face hardship. There is also growing concern that the rent cuts will hinder the rollout of 5G across the country, with many smallholders threatening to remove masts from their land.
Former Labour MP Anna Turley, chair of the Protect and Connect campaign, said: “Measures that were intended to support and speed up the rollout of 5G have therefore slowed it to a crawl.
“This is not simply a debate about whether we actually need highspeed broadband.
“It is about the rights of property owners to charge market rents for land that has a commercial value – and the injustice of telecoms giants tearing up existing contracts without being challenged in court.
“The Bill needs to ensure the costs of connectivity are divided fairly between consumers, providers and the owners of the land our broadband infrastructure will stand on for generations to come.”
The Government suggested savings operators make on the rental payments will be reinvested in new networks and consumer benefits.
But Protect and Connect campaigners claim that “unscrupulous” operators are keeping the profits for themselves.
Baroness Stowell of Beeston said: “Many site owners remain concerned and feel a sense of injustice and unfairness in the way in which they are treated.
“It seems to me that site owners are being asked to make sacrifices for the benefit of their local communities.
“But they fear that what is in fact happening is that they are being asked to give up income for the benefit of commercial providers gaining profit.
“Levelling up is not just about infrastructure that brings economic equality.
“It is also about fairness. It seems wrong that a Bill which is designed to level up is making some of those who are affected feel that they are losing out.”