Scotland Mountain Rescue turns on Ofcom
Volunteers asked to put anger into words
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 current consultation on Maritime and Aeronautical radio use, which is open until the end of October, complaining that the "Administered Incentive Pricing" proposed will cost the charity thousands of pounds it doesn't have.
The situation is similar for the Royal National Lifeboat Institute: which currently pays a discount rate of £38K for a licence around 156Mhz, but could end up with a bill knocking quarter of a million quid, annually. Even if they retain their 50 per cent discount, that's another £100K the charity is going to have to find if lifeboats are going to be able to talk to each other and the shore.
The problem is one of ideology: Ofcom believes that to ensure licensees value, their spectrum properly they must pay a market price for it. If they don't value it, then they have no motivation to use it efficiently. The best way to establish a market price is by auction, but for some spectrum, that's not suitable. It would be harsh to expect the Ministry of Defence to get into a bidding war with a foreign telco, so in such cases Ofcom adopts a formula known as Administered Incentive Pricing to work out what the spectrum would be worth on the open market.
In the case of the MOD that has worked well - the forces have agreed to give up great swaths of spectrum they weren’t really using and will pay market rates for the rest of it, being as the money comes from - and goes to - the treasury it's just a matter of book-keeping.
But - incredible as it seems for a small island - our lifeboats are a charity paid for by public donations. The same thing applies to Mountain Rescue in parts of Scotland and many local rescue services, so these groups are going to have to stump up a lot more money if they want to keep spectrum for the dull business of saving lives rather than delivery of multimedia Web 3.0 experiences that the highest bidder is likely to want to provide.
Any attempt to give the spectrum away for free, such as exempting life-saving services, would undermine the premise that cost makes for efficient use of resources - in case anyone's forgotten, optimal use of the electro-magnetic spectrum is the primary remit of the regulator. So the stand-off has no obvious resolution, until Scotland's mountain rescue decides to issue bagpipes instead of radios - or Ofcom changes its basic philosophy. ®
OFCOM listening, or knee-jerk reactions?
Having read this in outrage and gone straight to the OFCOM website to find out what on earth they could be thinking, I found an updated document has been posted that puts a different slant on things.
Among other comments, they state that the MCA licences cover search and rescue spectra, and as such mountain rescue teams do not have to pay for their licences, and that with new multi-transmitter discounts the RNLI may end up paying less than £20000, rather than the £38000 they currently pay.
So what do we think - the power of El Reg to the rescue again, or OFCOM concerns misunderstood and badly represented?
A reply from Ofcom
I asked OFCOM about this and..Here's a shock! They actually replied!!!!
Thank you Mr XXXX for your email to Graham Howell of OFCOM Senior Management Group.
I would like to assure you that we will consider all representations very carefully before taking any decisions on the level of fees, if any, to apply to the RNLI's use of radio spectrum. We have asked interested parties to respond to the current consultation by 30 October. After considering responses we expect to make a more formal proposal later this year which will give people a further opportunity to comment before any decisions are taken. Thank you once again for your helpful contribution."
I have attached a hyperlink to navigate you towards our webpage that discusses the above mentioned process. Here you can respond with the online consultation form (under the heading “How to respond”).
:: Ofcom Licensing Centre
Central Operations - Head of Ofcom Licensing Centre
Sorry just an outsider
But are they trying to make people in the UK revolt. I mean this is a load of shit. Would charge they police an insane amount ?? I don't know how it is in the UK but here in America there are set aside for emergency service frequencies .
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