No excuses for poor rural mobile phone coverage
There are some services that are understandably and not unreasonably better in large towns and cities than they are in the countryside. But mobile phone coverage should not be one of them. Yet as the Western Morning News reports today, research by the Countryside Alliance, carried out with the help of rural mobile phone users, shows that people outside big cities are four-and-a-half times more likely to suffer failed calls on their mobile compared to people who live in urban areas.
Why should this be acceptable? People in the countryside have, in the past, been too ready to shrug their shoulders and put up with poor services in too many areas of life. In some the investment to bring about improvements might, we concede, be hard to justify. But in others, most particularly in technology which is if anything more important in far flung rural areas than in big cities, there should be no excuses.
As Barney White-Spunner, executive chairman of the CA rightly points out: "The fact that someone with extremely poor service in part of the country can pay the same as someone with excellent service elsewhere clearly shows something needs to be done." The Alliance's four-point plan for improvements, leading off with 'national roaming' so that the number of blank areas for mobile coverage in the countryside is drastically reduced, should be a priority. Rolling out 4G – to include rural areas – must hit its 2017 deadline, simpler planning regulations to step up digital connectivity should be introduced and the Government's Mobile Infrastructure Project to bring coverage to 60,000 'not spots' by 2015 must be achieved.
This is not special pleading from a rural pressure group – indeed it should not even be an issue. Yet somehow it has been allowed to become a big deal when, in truth, mobile phone coverage should be as good in the countryside as it is in the town. Full stop.
❉ ❉ ❉
A few weeks ago the WMN asked, in a page one opinion piece about the Government's renewable energy policy: "What is going on?" Today we have more evidence of the entirely dysfunctional way that the coalition is approaching the building of wind turbines and so-called solar parks across our countryside.
While Conservative Defra Secretary of State Owen Paterson – backed, it appears, by the Prime Minister – speaks in highly sceptical tones about the value and benefits of noisy turbines that spoil the view and the rash of solar panels covering farmland, Lib Dem Energy Secretary Ed Davey tells his party conference about the Tories' 'stone age' approach to renewables and accuses Mr Paterson of wanting to 'cull wind turbines faster than badgers."
How can members of the public, worried about the landscape and the value of their homes, feel any confidence with that kind of open warfare going on? We have two parties in charge but we need one policy.