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back to article Ofcom taps sailors for new fees

Ofcom has published proposals for charging those at sea for radio communications, but would like everyone to note that it's not planning to screw the lifeboats this time. The regulator has been bitten before, when it casually suggested that lifeboats might like to pay market rates for radio spectrum. This time not only are …

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Sounds like just another tax

Charge for this, charge for that - no matter how they wrap it up or how much spin is applied. It simply boils down to people paying money to the government. Usually without any say in the matter, nor with any options being made available, and frequently without even the ability to opt-out.

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OFCOM Rip Off

Someone explain to me why Search and Rescue services that are run by voluntary organisations are ripped off in this manner for licences to operate vital kit?

The Govt and by extension its glove puppet regulator should be grateful that the vital services provided by these organisations are freely given, and supported by donations and legacies from the public. It is highly inappropriate in my view that ANY Govt arm has it fingers in the till in this manner.

Maybe we should cast all the MPs (And OFCOM wasters) adrift for a few days and see then if they still think a licence for equipment to help them be located is really something they should be charging for. £9k a year is too much!

Give Search and Rescue organisations a dedicated and protected frequency - Free of any fee/taxation.... NOW!

Lets face it.. its less than some yearly expenses claims!

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Anonymous Coward

Some fresh thinking !

You have to give credit to the government for the myriad of new ideas of how to put their hands in our pockets.

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O£com

O£com, the future for cashmunications !

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WTF?

"only £8250 a year"

Surely Ofcom could just allocate the spectrum to the RNLI for free? To the Government this is a ridiculously small amount but with the RNLI every penny counts. For example, £8250 is enough diesel for a Mersey class all-weather lifeboat to cover 937 miles at full speed (according to the RNLI's website £24 buys 30 litres of diesel and a Mersey uses 11 litres every nautical mile at top speed).

The RNLI are funded entirely by public donations not because they are "notoriously independent" but IMHO "correctly independent" from the MCA / Government. This means that they are entirely free from political interference and can concentrate on their core aim - saving lives at sea. If HMG were involved they would be operating lifeboats that entered service just in time to be obsolete at 3 times the original stated cost and the Minister in charge of Lifeboats would be on TV telling the public that they had the equipment they needed, how much money HMG had invested in the RNLI in the past 10 years, how much the budget would reduce if the Conservatives win the next election, etc, etc.

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Happy

What if.........

What if a port operator decided that they were not going to pay the fees needed to communicate to ships wanting to use their port. Imports and exports grind to a virtual halt overnight.

Wonder how long it would be before the Government woke up to the fact that there are some things that are for the econimic good of the country and should be allocated as such.

I know it is not going to happen....but I can dream

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@Da Weezil

"Give Search and Rescue organisations a dedicated and protected frequency - Free of any fee/taxation.... NOW!"

I Agree 100%

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@Da Weezil & others

I agree too.

Some years ago as a recreational sailor I obtained my VHF licence. At that time all yachts with a VHF radio had to have a licence costing, IIRC, £45 per year. The government agency who collected those licences made a loss, so they cost more to collect than they brought in. The same is likely to be true of these spectrum fees.

So they want to charge a charity for doing charitable work and they likely won't cover their costs in doing so. Better and cheaper for all concerned to let them use it for free.

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Joke

Those maritime radio pricing examples.

So, if you need a radio on a ship in the Scots Highlands it'll only set you back 12 quid a year? Bargain.

Anyone sailing on the high seas around Birmingham's going to be pissed off at those city rates though.

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Money grabbing barstewards

What everyone else has said really.

The number of things which are collectively paid for out of our taxes for the 'common good' seems to be rapidly diminishing, except when it's a war, Olympics, ID Cards or MP expenses when the government tell us how it's good for us for them to spend our money.

Strangely, despite more of that "you should pay for what you use" ideology, my taxes never seem to get any smaller.

And if the government really believed that ideology, they'd put slot meters on lampposts. I can't wait for OfAir ...

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Go

@Da Weezil, Jason71

Absolutely. Search and Rescue organisations should have a band to themselves with legal protection from interference. I'd also separate nautical and land-based S&R and probably have an emergency transponder style frequency too. 3 frequencies at maximum cost - <£30,000 cost in "lost" license fees to OfCom. I think that the cost of a couple of office staff's annual salaries (about 1/2 what my former employer paid annually for free-to-staff fruit baskets, in fact) is very definatly worth the extra lives that could be saved.

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Anonymous Coward

RIPUK - welcome home...

It is - OF COURSE - just another tax. And even slightly less sensible than taxing patios. Governments often suggest unpopular taxes. But New Labour seem to have cornered the market on crass stupidity.

Years ago I read a sci-fi story where the hero rings the police only to be told his subscription has expired. I thought is was funny back then. Now.....

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the mind boggles

howabout this for an idea... leave the Voluntary rescue services alone...

fire that room full of think-mongerers and you will instantly save a lifetimes amount of spectum revenue.

actually thats damn good PR... fire the twats - save money, gain some shred of public respect and only hurt a few people who are sick twisted, probably overpaid individuals that wont be missed anyway!

everyones a winner!!!!

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RLNI? Pah...let them pay...

I mean, they get to go out on jolly jaunts in their boats whenever they like, now we have to stump up the cash when they want to order more champagne over the radio?

The RLNI is the MP's dedicated holiday cruise line right? What? it isnt? its an already publicly funded emergency service that receives NO government money?

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: O£com (et al)

John Murgatroyd: " O£com, the future for cashmunications !"

Give that man a job El Reg, and can I have a non-coffee covered replacement keyboard?

Re: "only £8250 a year" (MikeWW)

Agree totally - I thought the only reasons that the RNLI do the job they do are because (a) the job _needs_ doing and (b) there's not an official body (a la USCG) to do it. Besides if Cameron and his pack get in, then surely the RNLI is a great example of a private organisation providing public services in a cost effective manner.

Re: "OFCOM Rip Off" (Da Weezil)

As an RNLI "Govenor" member (and proud of the fact) I'd second this - can someone raise an eGov petition and we'll start a campaign to get it filled out? As you say, it's f***ing ridiculous that the Treasury are getting _any_ of the RNLI's hardwon cash.

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@Da Weezil

Hell thats about the yearly buget of most cave/mountain rescue groups, who are in the same group of volenteer rescue groups.

Cave rescue, Mountain rescue and the RNLI should get this for free, and alot more thanks from the government. People call the emergancy services heros. They are just doing a job. These guys do what they do for free (and genraly put money in them selfs) they are heros, especaly as they spend most of there time rescuing numptys who go out in the north sea on a lilo or walking in the peaks in jeans and trainers with nothing more than a phone GPS to guide them.

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Safety of Life at Sea

And have they discussed this with the other signaturies to the SOLAS treaties?

All ship-ship and ship-shore communications is potentially safety based.

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There is nothing new ...

about government grasping incompetence.

I recall back in the 1960s having to fork out £5 ( a lot of money in those days) for a license to use a model boat radio control transmitter. We got nothing for it, it was just a tax.

Then the CB radio craze started, and the radio control frequency became effectively useless. The Home Office Radio Regulatory Department di not seem to understand frequency allocations in those days, and was completely uninterested in doing anything about the issue. But we still had to keep paying the tax....

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Megaphone

And also...

There are many local sea rescue services, not just the RNLI. I can see the point of Ofcom bringing in the MCA to manage a block of emergency service channels, and including the RNLI. These organisations work together, and need to talk with each other.

There are rescue and air ambulance helicopters. The RAF still, as far as I know, has its own Mountain Rescue teams. And, amongst those who go down the sea in ships, there is the Royal Navy.

But, whichever organisation gets the job of coordinating all this, I'd feel happier keeping the Civil Service out of it. Ever since, as a small child, I was a passenger on a boat between Brixham and Dartmouth, I've known the sea doesn't care.

The QRM code seems particularly appropriate for these circumstances.

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@SuperTim

> The RLNI is the MP's dedicated holiday cruise line right? What? it isnt?

I think you've put your finger on the nub of the problem there. If the RNLI *was* the MPS dedicated holiday cruise line they'd get the waveband without a problem...

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Valletta calling

Ship and boat owners might just register their vessels (and get their call signs) in that beautiful Mediterranean regulatory shelter, Malta. (Oddly enough, the now-missing Russian freighter Arctic Sea is registered in Valletta.)

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