back to article Ofcom denies lifeboat spectrum squeeze

UK regulator Ofcom has published an update to its consultation on spectrum management for the maritime and aeronautical sectors, explaining that it has no intention to charge lifeboats a quarter of a million quid to use radios. The clarification follows a deluge of bad publicity and vitriolic feedback received when various …

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Flame

Another nice earner for ofCON

"One has to establish the value of a saved life. Whether that's in terms of ambulances, boats or radio spectrum we have to decide, as a society, how much we're prepared to spend."

What the hell is all that about? This isnt about the Govt: providing something at zero cost and thus making a loss on the provision, its about how much the Governement TAXES a service that is supported by chariitable donations. Radio spectrum costs The Government nothing. the licence fees are just another revenue stream for it to squander. Money donated to such services should not be pouring into Government coffers for licences to use radio equipment to perform a function that benefits all people who go on the water - we are after all an island nation, and still rely on the water to some extent for both tourism and commerce. This is just another oppertunistic raid on the income of charities by a government happy to abdicate responsibility for the nuts and bolts of coastal (and mountain) rescue to voluntary groups to save itself some money, but at the same time greedy Govt cant resist the chance to grab some more income.

Its the same as public bodies having to pay govt for spectrum, its a paper way of inflating the cost of the service to US, the already over taxed and under-represented public.

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Dead Vulture

Value of a life saved.

I used to work for a large UK based public transport operator. Our staff were informed that a human life was valued at £8m. This was apparently based on a figure provided by our insurers as the average cost to the economy of a life lost. (Financial settlement, lost employee, spending power, taxes and many others) Pretty cold, but financially sound.

However, I don't believe you can put a price on human life, and these core organisations, such as the RNLI, Mountain Rescue, Cave Rescue should be gifted their spectrum. Ofcom can keep control of the spectrum, and if this wonderous new technology which uses half the bandwidth comes along, then they can work with the RNLI and others to implement it, with the ultimate threat of being made to pay for the excess bandwidth they are consuming, which they otherwise wouldn't. Seems reasonable to me. Ofcom are supposed to be regulating the industry after all, not merely selling it off.

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Unhappy

Charging MRTs and RNLI for spectrum use

You are quite right that society needs to be willing to stump up for lifesaving services, however your article misses an important point: the RNLI and Mountain Rescue Teams are voluntary bodies who provide their services free of charge to those rescued. Most of their funding comes from charitable donations etc., and they are rightly arguing for an exemption (or massive discount) given the fact there is no cost to the taxpayer for their services. I don't see why that's unreasonable!

I should also point out that Mountain Rescue conforms to a "UK SAR band plan" which is imposed on them - why should they have to pay for a huge number of channels that the government decided was necessary. Most teams only need one simplex channel, and perhaps one repeater channel, and would only use more in a major incident.

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Skewed argument

I disagree, I don't see why it is unrealistic to expect that parts of our national infrastructure (be it voluntary or government) should have to pay a fee to use a national resource held in trust by the government for the people. Why is it unrealistic for the government to lease for free something they get for free when there are significant social and even economic reasons for these organisations to exist. (If there weren't volunteers willing to risk their own lives and save lives for free then our taxes would probably have to go up to pay people to do the service instead).

When it is a government agency like the MOD then it is just a book keeping exercise shifting money from one treasury budget to another and is an effective way to allocate the resources. When it is a charity providing an important national service payed for donations then it is a tax on the charity for providing a service that the government should probably be funding anyway. Allocating the frequency doesn't cost the government anything it just fails to gain them more money.

Perhaps the best solution is for OFCOM to come up with a price for the licenses and then for the government to 'pay' for the license with conditions attached such that if a substancially and financially viable new system was developed then the government could force the organisations to move over if the cost benefit analysis was strong enough.

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Flame

Get real

"there is an ideological point too: if one imagines that the RNLI or similar is given its spectrum for free, and someone comes along with an improved radio that provides the same quality of service but using half the spectrum"

Can we just put this into context? The RNLI is a group of charity funded volunteers. They merrily sail out into the kind of seas that have most navies in the world running for shelter. Are you by any chance an ex-civil servant? By the way mountain rescue do exactly the same but in the most inhospitable areas of the country. This is the kind of unworldly argument they seem so fond of. It is utterly removed from what expect public servants to do

I'm sure that next time someone is being rescued from a stricken ship or carried down a mountain in a blizzard the first thing they will worry about is whether their rescuers are correctly incentivesed.

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Pirate

Compared to

£2.5M for a life boat these numbers seem cheap. Yes it would be nice if the RNLI had more money, but things do cost. We will just have to see how it all plays out.

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Thumb Down

Hmmm.....

Not sure if its worth bothering arguing any more. Ofcom, bastard son of BSC, ITC, RCA, Oftel.

Postwatch and energy watch have now become 'Consumer focus'. Soon all of the old consumer reps will have merged into one massive profit supervising control machine, merged with the governments new consumer monitoring program.

A bit like the Stasi, but probably called something fluffier like 'Cloudlite'. Forget capitalism, Parliamentary Democracy has stopped working in this shite hole we call "Great" Britain. (+NI).

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Anonymous Coward

Bounded by cost?

Yes, physical things with a tangible cost to manufacture and maintain should be paid for.

£20k for some entries in a database, however, is a very different matter.

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Have you been saved?

"One has to establish the value of a saved life." Always remembering that any such life saving is temporary. There is a reason why lifeboats are not a publicly funded service. Were it taxpayer funded there would be continual calls for more "government" money to be spent, as if it came magically from some pockets other than our own.

The yearly hand wringing about old folks dying "from" the cold also advocates unlimited spending. How much are we willing to pay to ensure that everyone dies in the summertime?

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Unhappy

Please explain

Who is going to be using the other radio that the RNLI needs?

>>"Individual cases aside, there is an ideological point too:

if one imagines that the RNLI or similar is given its spectrum for free, and someone comes along with an improved radio that provides the same quality of service but using half the spectrum, there is no incentive to switch to the new system.

Ofcom's argument that those who pay for spectrum are more likely to use it wisely has some basis in fact, and has been effective in getting the Ministry of Defence to give up great swathes of spectrum after finding out how much it was worth."<<

Obviously if you stopped Liberian and Panamanian ships entering British waters, you wouldn't need the old kit but if you did that and boosted the national economy in the process, then you wouldn't need the RNLI in the first place, would you?

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Anonymous Coward

Money isn't the problem

It's allocation of resources. We can use spectrum to transmit repeats of Eastenders and such like bilge, or we can use it for saving lives, whatever their value. I realize this is a tough call, given that the 'regulator' can make millions out of the broadcasters.

<mist color="#FF0000">

The obvious way forward would be for the govt. to issue a five page questionnaire to those in peril on the seas (if they had ID cards then they could just be looked up on the database, thus incentivising take up) to determine whether, in aggregate, they were worth saving. As a side effect, illegal immigration would be cut down as well. In time a proper solution could be developed in which the market decides: we would be able to have a real time auction between, say, frostbitten mountaineers and the devotees of Coronation Street as to who grabs the required spectrum.

There are possibilities for commercial spin offs here as well; I see a reality show featuring weeping (pref. photogenic) relatives of the doomed passengers of MV Rustbucket up on the telly pleading for funds for the requisite spectrum. If they get the ratings against whatever else is on the box, they get the resources. Moral of the story: don't have an accident when Emmerdale is on.

</mist>

I find it nearly impossible to express my disgust at the loathsome half wits and their catamites who infest the bureaucracy of this country.

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Before Queezing Good Organisations, Look at Yourselves

I wouldn't mind betting that the cost of discussing/consulting/defending/arguing and perhaps implementing a new scheme for making money out of thin air, will eventually cost us all more than it will make until the next new scheme is dreamt up for the same air.

And if Ofcom find a new technology to reduce the need for RNLI/Mountain Rescue, etc. to have such a wide and expensive spectrum available to them, then Ofcom should fund the change from that extra revenue.

That would be an incentive for Ofcom to make sure the numbers stack up before trying to raid someone else's piggy bank. There's nothing efficient about 'making' an extra pound for pocket A (Ofcom/Gov) if someone else has to empty pocket B & C & D, etc.. That's just shovelling money around, not making money. Smoke and mirrors.

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Coat

Catamites Unite

I would just like to thank Wayne for making me roll round in fits of laughter. Alas my education to date has never come across "catamites". Now that I have, I am determined to use the word at every possible opportunity. My only disagreement with Wayne is that I would extend his description to encompass the politicians as well as the bureaucracy.

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Simple soulotion

Strand Ofcom board members some were remote. Hand them a radio. Tell them it will work just as soon as the rescuer organization gets their radio license.

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Unintended consequences?

>People who argue that life-saving services shouldn't be bounded by cost aren't being realistic. One has to establish the value of a saved life.

In France, you pay to be rescued by their equivalent of the RNLI. In the UK you don't. In France the coastguard constantly puts out messages asking for people to help as casualties don't want to pay for rescue; thus putting other people in danger and leaving their lifeboats unused.

In the UK, the RNLI and coastguard helicopter service doesn't charge for rescue, so is well used. OK, there are times that people in Lake Solent need to be reminded that running out of lemon slices for their G&T doesn't constitute an emergency, in which case the RNLI can charge for rescue.

Arguably an under-utilised rescue service isn't as well equipped for 'serious' rescues as a well-practised rescue service.

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Anonymous Coward

@Chris Green

> That's just shovelling money around, not making money. Smoke and mirrors.

Which, funnily enough, sounds remarkably similar to how the current chaos in financial markets came into being. Amazing where innovative thinking can take you!

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Thumb Down

Time to return OFCOM

Would seem OFCOM has changed into an extra arm for the government to gain more backdoor taxes this time for voluntary rescue team..

Has OFCOM become redundant since they seem to have changed from looking after the UK civilians to looking after the government.. What happened to the independant body since they seem to only be looking out for ways to increase the money going into the governments pockets.

How much can we save then if this independant body was all made redundant and we started to find a group to take over the role and defend, look after the UK civilians against UK government scaremongering, backdoor taxes and invaision of UK citizens privacy.

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re: Get real

And there IS a reason to use the new more efficient radios: you can have more rescues without stomping on other rescue information. More information to have for aiding the rescue without tying up resources. Etc.

Basically that argument for asking for payment is weak to the point of being bullshit.

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