back to article Scotland Mountain Rescue turns on Ofcom

Volunteer mountain-rescue staff in Scotland are being asked to write to the UK regulator Ofcom to complain about increased spectrum prices that could drive them out of the life-saving business. The BBC reports that the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland has asked its members to write to the regulator in response to the …

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"the premise that cost makes for efficient use of resources"

That's a completely FALSE premise to begin with.

Selling to the highest bidder doesn't mean that the highest bidder is the one which would make the best use of the spectrum. Much more likely is that the highest bidder is the company that will charge the end user £80 for a service that a lower bidder might have sold for £60.

Then there's the likellihood that bidders will put in bids for unnecessary spectrum, simply to stop competitors from getting hold of the spectrum they need to set up a competitive service.

Spectrum shouldn't be auctioned, it should be allocated for a specific service and made available to whichever company can guarantee to provide that service for the least cost to the end user.

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Erm

Couldn't the government just decide to "donate" a portion of spectrum to these life-saving charities?

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Unhappy

OFCOM are basically living in cloud-cuckoo land.

They think that TV and individual theatre production companiess can afford to pay multi-thousands for the small bits of spectrum they currently use as well.

Sorry - but if they put up the prices the way they've been talking about, three things will happen:

1) Many rescue services will simply cease to exist.

2) Many TV shows will cease to be made - you can't do Dancing On Ice or Strictly Come Dancing at all without lots (30+) of radio mics and in-ear monitors, and even chat and game shows use several of them.

3) Amateur productions of musicals will cease, or the amateurs will simply break the law.

On the other hand, if a member of OFCOM gets lost in the mountains or gets into 'difficulty' on their mega-yacht, they'll stay lost.

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Stop

They never get it right, do they?

Ofcom never do get it right. One minute they're supporting Phorm, the next charging the RNLI through the teeth for licenses.

If people understood (in the mainstream) how unfit for purpose they were, we wouldn't be just tuting at them..

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Unhappy

Regulators ? More like money makers

My (indirect) dealings with OFCOM over the yeras make plain that OFCOM is not in the business of looking out for consumers. It's only interested in making money either for the government or telcos. It's basically a tax man for the digital economy.

Why can't we get a regulator that actually takes notice of consumers (and small businesses) ? Because it makes too much money for the government, that's why. Why slay the goose that keeps on giving those lovely golden eggs

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Coat

Exemptions

Maybe Ofcom personnel should be exempt from receiving lifesaving services.........

as it would make them appreciate their lives more.

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Is there no end to Ofcon's incompetence?

I've always assumed there is no end to Ofcom's incompetence. It just seems like one of life's safer assumptions, and this just confirms it.

So the RNLI's nominal pre-discount price for their licence is around a quarter of a million pounds a year at pre-credit-crunch market rates.

The going rate for a chair of Ofcon is also allegedly not far off a quarter of a million pounds a year for a three days a week job (advertised recently, now closed) [1] Is that at the pre-credit-crunch market rate too?

I know which one any sensible person would value more.

[1] http://64.233.183.104/search?q=cache:gbLVRYcACe4J:www.loadzajobs.co.uk/management/chair-of-ofcom-1369205.html

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Anonymous Coward

Ofcom fwits

I would guess if the RNLI and the Mountain rescue services, notify Ofcom that they will be withdrawing their services, and that on balance it would be better if no shipping, or leisure craft or mountain walking or climbing should take place, and could they please explain to the government why this is so, they may change their minds.

If these groups can't afford or don't want the spectrum, it can't have any value, and just at the moment, I don't suppose the number of organisations queuing up with ready cash for spectrum is that great.

Could we have an icon of a complete bunch of tossers please.

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Alert

'the premise that cost makes for efficient use of resources'

um... saving lives (and having YOUR life in danger doing it) is probably going to make the people involved as efficient as the possibly can be. OFCOM==TWATS here I'm afraid!

PS what the hell's happened to the anti aliasing on the smiley smile?!?

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Ben
Go

Strike

Wouldn't an obvious way to make government behave responsibly and support these Charities (which if they didn't exist the government would have to pay for directly) is for mountain rescue and the lifeboat service to publicly state that unless they *are* supported or *given* spectrum, they will suspend their activities and strike?

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Pirate

Erm

Of course, the RNLI and the various mountain rescue teams could move to a more commercial footing. They could be paid by results funded via insurance or in the case of no insurance, by card payment on the spot. No pay - no rescue.

And how acceptable is this? Blah, Ofcom.

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Flame

Other notable Ofcon "spectrum auction" successes

You have to start with 3G. The bidders must have been insane, the licences cost money the 3G companies will take decades to recover, but it set the precedent for "spectrum auctions" rather than "beauty contests".

Then in 2004 there was the fixed wireless broadband access auction. In the same way as the UK cable franchises were initially split over different suppliers in different regions (look how well that worked and where it ended up), here again the various regions initially got various different suppliers, mostly PCCW but a few others too. Then soon afterwards PCCW bought up all the ones they didn't already own, and proceeded at full speed to offer a national alternative to cable and DSL broadband (and the odd localised wireless outfit). Well, PCCW did buy the licences, but we're still waiting for any worthwhile sign of their services, following a series of renames and relaunches. They're barely visible even in the areas which were their initial franchises (Thames Valley, Reading, etc).

Then there's the near-moribund DAB market, which Channel 4 have just abandoned.

With a track record like that, Gordon Bruin should offer them a job. Wait a minute...

Exhibits:

3G: too numerous to mention

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/11/25/pccw_broadband/

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/10/10/c4_abandons_dab/

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Heart

What is the goverment doing with the availible frequencies?

What is the government doing with the available frequencies?

I hear rumors of them auctioning frequency bands in perpetuity to the highest bidder; is this true?

If so we better do something about it.

I can understand having to reassess every so often, wether things are right, - as in not just give frequency bands away. However making the highest bidder the owner is in no way the best way either.

If it's on a short periodic basis, the highest bidder makes sense- as long as deserving charities and amatures (CB etc) and community/pirate radio have a receivable amount thats OK-

But it doesn't seem that way

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Coat

I thought the US was daffy...

Wow, Ofcom is way worse than the FCC. If one is a licensee for a given service here, one has paid in full: no charge for spectrum use. A license for Mobile/Portable use on the search and rescue VHF channels costs something like $50 (or less) for ten years, and you can have a nearly unlimited number of users. If one is an Amateur radio operator, there are no charges. I paid $11 for a ten year Amateur license, which includes access to bands ranging from 1.8MHz to 47GHz.

Granted, broadcast licenses for any service/media cost quite a bit more, but hey, they're the public's airwaves, so for private gain they should pay (and they don't pay enough in my humble opinion. Of course, we don't pay for radio/TV licenses either.

Mine's the one with the radio in the pocket...

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RW
Flame

"Optimal use of EM spectrum"

Clearly the dimwits at OfCom have fallen into a Friedman-esque error of thinking that the only measure of value is a monetized one.

I wonder what value they place on human life in their spreadsheets? Or the value of TV & stage productions to society, other than the simpleminded monetary value?

I say Friedman-esque in memory of Milton Friedman, the man responsible in large part for corporate focus on share value at the expense of all else.

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Toothless and useless

Disgusting. I too have had dealings with OFCOM over the years with what I considered to be well-reasoned and well-presented complaints about radio stations, refering to the quality of both presentation and audio and never, ever got a straight answer. Got the impression that they didn`t actually want to rock the boat, despite supposedly being a regulator (allegedly). They seem very keen, however, to make money from spectrum auctions.

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Anonymous Coward

It's about time that

It would be good if someone like branson were to front the money for a satellite, specifically for lifesaving services only. Sod OFCOM and sod the govt. for making them fight for cash in the first place.

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Paris Hilton

Let Scotland go, say I.

They've been bleating about home rule for decades now. Let em go. Then we can do what Gordon intends to do to Iceland:

Take all their cod for reneging on county council loans to one of their banks.

We can have the rest of the oil for all the money the RBS has defaulted on.

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Fatuous Scotland/bagpipe comment in a Reg article? Never!

"until Scotland's mountain rescue decides to issue bagpipes"

<=>

"until Cornwall's RNLI decides to issue highly-trained messenger pilchards"

Mind you, the pilchards would be infinitely easier for the rest of us to live with. In fact yes, I can see the upside now: issuing bagpipes might help keep more folk away from the mountains and thus ultimately prevented from ever getting stuck up one.

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Anonymous Coward

Dimwits

Simple solution is for them to stop paying, i cant imagin men in black coats will go treking around the mid highlands to get folk using VHF radios just as they wouldnt jump in boats to chase down RNLI people, course the base stations would need to be mobile. A lot of people use VHF radios up here without a licence so id guess it would be almost imposible to inforce, can you imagin the headlines, OFCOM shuts down RNLI and Mountain rescue, there would be civil outcry and the govenment would go in to overdrive to tidy it away, especialy with an election around the corner that isnt going their way at all.....they need all the help they can get, so quit paying, keep using till your shut down then watch as the govenment folds.

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Verizon and AT&T

"Selling to the highest bidder doesn't mean that the highest bidder is the one which would make the best use of the spectrum"

Hear hear! In the US, Verizon and AT&T have over 90mhz of spectrum in quite a few areas; they don't use anywhere near that (at least outside LA and New York, where they do use a lot I bet), and in some cases use hardly any at all. It seems they are buying up spectrum to either prevent others from using it to compete, period, or they hold onto it as some bargaining chip to sell off or trade later. So, regular economics has this spectrum completely fallow (perhaps with a "license saver" site running), while it could otherwise be in use.

Or, in the article's case, some spectrum that is in use, but when it becomes unaffordable for rescue use, will probably remain idle.

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Have you actually tried to complain to OFCOM?

Just been on the OFCOM website to post a complaint about this. It's bloody impossible, just links to more and more 'Guidelines' for simply making a complaint, no links or email addresses to just simply put a complaint in.

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Anonymous Coward

Money isn't everything

It would be wonderful to arrange a peaks and trough event for Offcom. This would be a trip up the mountains then a long sail. Hopefully one of them would need the services of a volunteer rescue service and be told to get stuffed and drown. If there's any justice it'll be a bean counting senior manager.

May the rest of them then learn the price of charity.

Money isn't everything

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Unhappy

@Thomas Bottrill re. Erm

You are one of those people who thinks up simple and elegant solutions to problems. As such, you have no place in modern society. I'm sorry Thomas but that's the way it is nowadays.

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Whilst . . .

. . . I agree that the whole thing is dispicable and that OFCOM are simply another goverment shill, couldn't the RNLI and Mountain Rescue use the same band-width ? I mean, the last time I checked there weren't that many RNLI stations half-way up mountains.

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nobody likes OFCOM except the regime

OFCOM is just another NuLabour tax collecting quango. Everything they touch turns to shit.

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Paris Hilton

@Warhelmet

Some nice folk recently left our local lifeboat station a bequest.

When their yacht had got into difficulties off the coast of Spain a nearby fishing boat would not assist them until they had handed over all their valuables.

OFCOM directors should carry gold sovereigns when afloat :)

Someone should post pictures of them so that they can be recognized all around the coast.

My inflatable Paris works well as a life preserver :-)

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Free Scotland, Tax the English

Fine, all those English who enter Scotland post independence will be required to post bonds, in cash (Euros only please) in lieu of their needing to be rescued. People have been pulled of Ben Nevis in t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops too many times to be counted.

Ditto if you come down to the Lake District, I hear you bleat. Well why would we want to go to a miniature version of the Highlands when we have the real thing on our doorsteps? Besides, that is what Arran is for, or Arthur's Seat.

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Up the Revolution

I've had just about enough of this capitalist crap that everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, can be best run by the "Market". If you give essential, life-saving services over to businessmen, all they'll be interested in is how much profit they can "leveridge" out of the poor sap of a "consumer" - Sod the quality of service or the conditions that the brave rescuers-on-the-ground (or in-the-air) have to endure.

As a past "consumer" of mountain-rescue "services" I'm damned-thankful that my life-saving experience wasn't routed through an Indian call-centre that first tried to get me to self-extract (a.k.a. "have you tried turning it off and on again?"), then put me on hold while they conferred with their line-manager, then raised an order number for a rescue team to be sub-contracted and dispatched some time next Tuesday.

When are the people of this country going to realise that there are certain things that private industry should be allowed nowhere near? Healthcare, armed forces, policing, prisons, royal mail and the EM spectrum...all the things that are essential to underpin the functioning of a civilized society, and that should not be expected to "make a profit" - rather, it must be accepted that they are things that will incur a necessary cost. FFS, you don't expect eating your greens to make a profit, do you? No - it costs a certain amount, but you have to do it to keep your body fueled and healthy.

Sometimes I despair at peoples' greed and stupidity.

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Public servants

As a publicly funded body, one would have thought that Ofcom should be doing what is best for the country and it's citizens- and that is not necessarily coincident with selling off bandwidth to fill treasury coffers. They should ensure that publc services, the military and private citizens have access to the bandwidth they need. Commercial concerns should only be considered afterwards.

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Stop

Spectrum is Community Property

...so it should be owned by the Community. It could be licensed -- rented -- to a money making corporation for a fee, the money going into the Community purse, but if the entity needing the resource is public service or non-profit then there should be no fee.

The problem is that you've got a Government that's got you used to the idea that stuff you all own -- your birthright -- isn't really yours, its all available for sale to the highest bidder. You need to change both the Government and that culture, and the quicker the better.

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Anonymous Coward

simple answer.........

Don't pay a penny, the government will soon become embarrassed by the MRT & lifeboat crews failures to save life.

Ok, it will mean a few lifes lost in the "cause" but surely their families will understand.

OFCOM = often Commical.

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From the OFCOM Website

"If you remain dissatisfied, you may refer your complaint to the Chairman of the Ofcom Board. Please contact the office of the Secretary to the Corporation Graham Howell (graham.howell@ofcom.org.uk) who will refer your complaint to the Chairman."

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Anonymous Coward

What's the email address for Ofcom complaints?

I've only ever been able to find contact details for the chiefs - anyone got email details for one of the indians, assuming there are any...

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For the record

Guys....

It's worth pointing out that RNLI have actually refused government funding, precisely because they don't want to be subject to government targets and other civil service bullshit.

The 156 MHz referred to in the article is known to yachties as channel 0, which is illegal to listen to in UK waters, and is used by RNLI, the coastguard, RAF and RN air sea rescue to dicsuss 'sensitive' matters (e.g. can we have a body bag for the deceased). Why should the RNLI even have to pay for use of this part of this spectrum - they don't use it excusively. FFS Ofcom, tune into sanity FM!

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Pirate

Government, Government wherefore art thou, Government?

I thought government was there to compensate for market failures. Like street lighting, common property, education etc. What's the point of Ofcom if its just a vendor?

With 3G the problem was that no-one really knew its value and therefore the big players had to bid in case it turned out to be critical to survival. What should have happened is a long-term trial rental of spectrum in London to test the tech and the market. Instead the government essentially shifted tax collecting from itself (on the whole population) to mobile telephone companies (on mobile phone owners).

It seems the government is just another corporation.

Pirates, and not the fun kind.

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E

Get rid of London

Make London a separate country.

Then your politicians and aparatchiks would have to listen to their constituents, not the various species of London-chiks.

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Only ofcom...

Could seriously go after life saving charities.. Utter Twits

Send the BOFH to work at ofcoms head quarters for a week

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Pirate

re: dimwits

Precisely.

Don't pay for it and what can OFCOM do? The rozzers would get the shit kicked out of them for enacting due process on RNLI/Mountain Rescue. A company would be committing commercial suicide by sending out private enforcers (and an even greater likelihood of "worker attrition" in the quieter areas of town). The courts wouldn't be able to prosecute them since any Jury would nullify a judgement against them.

And if another company were given the frequencies and blocked a call, they would be hung out to dry by public opinion and probably sued for murder privately (with a jury likely to find in their favor to boot).

Just don't pay and use the frequencies anyway.

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Who'll save them?

Couldn't our useless government cough up the cash for this? It's peanuts in the grand scheme and they'll throw away many times this amount on shite no one wants or asked for. Come on number 10, how about doing something good and useful for once?

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Go

Ofcom Consultation Process

http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/aip/howtorespond/

Find all the correct details here.

There's a somewhat hasty form letter response I made here

http://www.edinburghinpictures.co.uk/news/campaigns/ofcom1008.html

Also, why not write to your friendly MP about it?

As always full details are at http://www.writetothem.com/

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For what it's worth

There are several areas where mountainous terrain is near to the sea - Wasdale, Ben Nevis ... plus from a Sea King at several hundred metres height you would be talking to everyone on land or sea in a radius of a few miles.

Unless things have changed, it's the police that officially calls in the volunteer rescue teams and also issues the radio permits and covers the team members insurance when on official callouts, so the police is the body that should be kicking up a fuss.

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re: Get rid of London

Firstly, this whole thing stinks. I too am sick of this capitalist BS that I have been fed all my life. OFCOM is clearly just another tax earning quango. When are these idiots going to be put away?

On to the 'London' comment. GROW UP. What the fuck has London got to do with it? Most of the "London-chiks" come from the fucking provinces as 'E' clearly does.

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A rewrite please

Can we get Tim Worstall to do his version of this article telling us how the market will sort it all out and we are just being silly?

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Paris Hilton

Inverted values

How typical of Ofcom to price the crap out of spectrum so others 'appreciate it's value', while failing entirely to appreciate the value such rescue services offer the country. The nation is getting very valuable services for close to nothing and making spectrum available to them at no cost would seem like a very small gesture in return.

By their own light, Ofcom fail miserably as does most of this dreadful government. They know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Paris, cos doubtless she talks a lot of shit too.

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Never thought I would say this....

....But maybe we should consider bringing back the Radio Authority and the IBA.

Ofcom proves itself on an almost monthly basis to be incompetent, have no regard for public service and to be a law unto itself. They have ceased to be a regulator of the radio industry, merely an estate agent of prime spectrum.

Where is the national press on this one.... "Quango threatens existence of RNLI"... although maybe the thought of no mountain rescue will stop Nigel from Surrey attempting to scale Ben Nevis in sandals and cargo shorts.

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Unhappy

Ofcom remit?

"in case anyone's forgotten, optimal use of the electro-magnetic spectrum is the primary remit of the regulator."

Funny, I thought Ofcom was created to ensure a level playing field and to stop BT (at the time) from using it's weight to crush newcomers, not to be the government's spectrum pimp.

Looks like it's a case of gamekeeper turned poacher?

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Bronze badge

Here's a thought...

The RNLI and Mountain Rescue could just refuse to pay, and continue to pay the old fees. One wonders how keen the media savvy OFCOM would feel about prosecuting the RNLI and Mountain Rescue services.

Would you want to be the CEO who closed down the UK's rescue services, somehow I doubt it. Not only that, would you want to be the CEO of a telecomms company who bought the spectrum out from underneath these services.

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either you didn't look very hard...

or they've suddenly put up a complaints page in panic :p

http://www.ofcom.org.uk/complain/288203/

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Alien

Priorities

It's a simple equation involving life = cheap and money = everything

That's why you can kill someone and you can be out in 18 months, rob a bank and it's 30 years

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