Rights of way for electronic communications: Are public authorities entitled to levy taxes on existing telecommunication infrastructures?

10 October 2012


Public authorities are in principle not entitled to levy any tax on the use of the public domain for telecommunication infrastructures, as the rights of way should be “free of charge”. Following a decision of the Belgian Constitutional Court, this stipulation does however not prevent the Regions from exercising their attributed competences, such as the management of the private use of the public domain. As the Regions are entitled to impose a “retribution” for the private use of the public domain in general, they are also entitled to impose such “retribution” on the operators of the telecommunication networks using the public domain.


There are no any levies or taxes collected for access to network. However, service provider has a duty to submit to the FICORA a written notification of the intention to operate public telecommunications. The notification duty does not apply to public telecommunications that is temporary in nature, aimed at a small audience or otherwise of minor significance. The licence is required when operating certain communication services, including use of radio frequencies. A telecommunications operator subject to notification or licence shall pay an annual communications market fee to the FICORA.

The private use of public domain is always subject to payment of some fees set by the manager of the domain. The establishment of a tax falls within the scope of the law. As example, in France, the mobile operators pay an annual tax by installed BTS.


No, neither taxes nor other levies.


The only fees/taxes that can be requested by public bodies on existing infrastructures are specifically provided and disciplined also in their amount by the law (COSAP/TOSAP).


Dutch legislation allows  telecommunication operators to maintain their cables in the ground without being charged fees and/or taxes, with some exemptions as set out above.


The general view of the tax authorities is that the cables themselves are not taxed [as they are not considered to be a building], however the cable ducts are taxed. Some tax authorities believe that the cables should also be taxed.


The deployment/exploitation of a public electronic communications network is subject to the so-called “general fee for the operators”, which is collected and managed by CMT. This year, in accordance with the provisions contained in the State General Budget for 2012, the amount corresponds to one per thousand of the gross operating revenues billed by the operator during the relevant year.


Telecommunication operators are obligated to pay taxes on energy consumption. But there are no other taxes in relation to existing telecommunications infrastructures.

 United Kingdom 

Yes. Fibre optic cables are rateable by HMRC. In relation to networks installed on or under a third party’s land, however, the ECJ in July 2012 ruled that member states cannot charge telecoms providers for using facilities installed on private or public property where they are not the proprietors of those facilities.

Other questions answered in the international communications bulletin for October 2012: