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Under-fire Ofcom maps out emergency systems

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Ofcom has updated the schedule for the introduction of Administered Incentive Pricing for radio spectrum used by a variety of services, including the RNLI and mountain-rescue services, having received a deluge of comments on the original proposal.

By the end of October, when the consultation ended, Ofcom had accumulated an unprecedented 634 responses, including 356 from named individuals, 137 who wished to stay anonymous, and 141 from groups. The groups run from American Airlines to the "Bettyhill Community Council", the former providing a detailed analysis of why airlines shouldn't pay for aeronautical radio, the latter providing this simple, and rather charming, statement: "We do not wish charges to apply to the RNLI and other charitable groups involved in life-saving."

The proposals, to make everyone pay market rates for the radio spectrum they use, have been very controversial and highlighted the difficulty of applying economic theory to emotional issues such as life-saving services - despite the fact that such decisions are made in hospitals across the country every day.

Ofcom is considering all the responses, and will publish new proposals in the spring next year with a view to introducing new charges some time after April 2010. In the case of the RNLI and similar it seems likely those charges will be applied to a government department, which will then be responsible for ensuring efficient utilisation, thus side-stepping the publicity associated with being seen trying to screw money out of a life-saving charity.

The regulator will also be holding a number of "stakeholder workshops", presumably to ensure that such high-profile groups can be signed up to the next plan before it goes public. ®

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