Ofcom proposes squeezing £4m out of airlines
Not about the money, of course
UK regulator Ofcom is again consulting on charging airports for the frequencies they use, even if the spectrum can't be used for anything else.
Ofcom's proposal (pdf) sets fees ranging from £75 to £19,000 which will be charged to airports operating radios in the 118.975-147MHz band, with discounts for those operating in the boondocks, and will be phased in over the next five years to cushion the blow.
The document is a follow-up to July's consultation which provoked heated debate - mostly from individuals concerned with protection of life-saving services, but also from airlines and airports who object to paying for something they've hitherto had for free. This time Ofcom has numbers and details, and is focusing on the airports in the hope of getting an easier ride, but the industry is unlikely to take even that lying down.
The rates are calculated using AIP (Administrated Incentive Pricing - Ofcom guesses the commercial value and charges that), and depend on details of channels and broadcast power, and where the airport is - Northern Scotland gets half price licences, while Wales gets 20 per cent off.
As usual, Ofcom is citing greater efficiency rather than revenue generation. A good example of inefficiency, and one cited by Ofcom, is the use of 25kHz-wide channels - the UK is committed to using channels of 8.33kHz, which would increase the number by factor of three, but there's little incentive for the industry to move to 8.33kHz channels except where airports demand it because of overcrowding.
Ofcom's prime directive is efficient spectrum use, so the regulator reckons that airports will be pleased to switch to 8.33kHz channels to cut two thirds off their licence, thus pushing aircraft owners into upgrading their kit.
Respondents to the first consultation argued that international agreements mandate the spectrum for aeronautical use, so it has no commercial value and that makes it inappropriate to bill for it. Ofcom responds that it is charged with efficient use of spectrum, and just because it can't be sold doesn't mean it can't be valued.
There were also arguments, notably from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), that the fees would push small aerodromes to shut down their radio service, which could compromise safety. Ofcom retorts that if the CAA is concerned about safety, then perhaps the CAA should impose some legal requirements on the aerodromes: that's not Ofcom's job.
Ofcom is dead set on applying AIP to aeronautical radios. The regulator is willing to negotiate on the amount of the fees, and the phasing-in process, but the underlying model of airports paying for their radio spectrum now seems irresistible. ®
Squeezing it out of whom?
Us! of course. When are we going to be honest and admit that all these taxes on businesses are simply indirect taxes on consumers. What service do we get for this tax? Easy ... more efficient use of the spectrum. How does that benefit us? Errr....
How did we get to a stage where thousands of government departments can just make policy decisions that effectively increase the taxation burden on the public, with no public consultation, no significant benefits for the public, and no effective means for us to vote on whether we want it or not?
Modern government, in Britain at any rate, is a cancer. It just grows and grows with no benefit to the host. How are we going to get it back down to size? I don't mind paying huge amounts in tax, if we get Scandinavian public services. I don't mind getting crappy USA style public services if we pay USA size tax. But here in the UK we pay nearly-Scandinavian taxes and get nearly-American Services. Where does the rest go? it appears that it is sucked out of the economy by worthless parasites
Am I being far too cynical? Or is this Ofcom (aware of the Tory intentions on its long term non-survival) trying to get its defence in first.
They know that by the time our Dear Leader finally agrees to an election, there will just be a few moths in the public purse. So if Ofcom can demonstrate that they are a net revenue raising Quango, then surely the Tories will leave them alone as they will need every penny that Ofcom can raise for them (amongst all else needed to undo the damage).
The grenade is for the Ofcom offices.
Just **** typical !
Several points here ...
Most people think "airport" and think pf places like Manchester and Heathrow etc. Well guess what, there's only a small number of "big airports", but hundred of small airfields. If these charges are imposed, then many of them will simply switch off the radio and a piece of safety related equipment is gone. The same goes for radio navaids, many old NDBs are on small airfields, and many of them are in the "it's there it's already paid for and only costs the electricity to run it" category and would be turned off if charges were imposed.
Neither of these on their own is a huge safety issue, in good weather with good visibility. But in poor vis, both are potential lifesavers.
Now, on the subject of 25 vs 8.33kHz channel spacing. Yes, it would be nice to just wave a magic wand and make 8.33kHz the standard - and I'm sure many would like to do that. The trouble is that it then requires almost all light aircraft to replace their radios. I'm sure many of you are thinking "so what's the problem ?", cost is. Whilst some can be replaced as a slot in replacement (like changing the stereo in the car if you have a DIN unit), this is not the case with a lot of the units. So not only is it a four figure price for a new radio, but engineering charges to modify the instrument panel and wiring, and just for good measure the CAA will require fees for approving the modification ! Massive costs for lots and lots of people, absolutely no benefit to anyone because there actually isn't a shortage of frequencies, there is a shortage of management !
BTW - 8.33kHz spacing IS mandated for certain types of airspace, mostly those that aren't used (frequently or at all) by the majority of light aircraft.