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Sod hedgerows and fields, build more base stations

Coverage more important than rural idyll, says quango

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The Commission For Rural Communities is calling for less restrictive planning laws to encourage comms networks to build out, for the sake of the rural economy.

Having spent a few years talking to rural businesses the Commission has published recommendations, entitled Action for Change, concluding that rural development is being stifled by nimbys who‘d prefer pretty views to a sustainable economy.

According to the quango‘s report (pdf) the not-in-my-back-yard crowd are preventing rural companies from expanding by blocking planning applications on principle. That is, apparently, stopping the spread of the infrastructure necessary to support rural businesses - including cellular towers and microwave relays needed to provide broadband connectivity to rural areas - which is causing companies to go bankrupt and youth to migrate towards the cities, where they can get a mobile signal and YouTube works properly.

The report endorses the government's commitment to providing everyone with 2Mb/sec, and calls for money left over from the migration to digital TV (which went smoother than expected) to be used to pay for additional infrastructure, as well as more tax breaks and local authority support for rural businesses.

But it‘s planning permission which is highlighted as inconsistent, anti-business and too open to abuse by those who think the countryside is somewhere where crops are harvested once a year and bunnies frolic in the open fields.

The upcoming spectrum auctions, along with the removal of technical limitations on spectrum usage, will release a whole load of frequencies with superb propagation, which should reduce the need for more base stations if operators are prepared to spend the money.

Planning restrictions may be a factor in wireless and wired connectivity, but we can‘t help thinking it‘s the lack of commercial viability that‘s the real problem - not something a government quango can easily solve. ®

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