Message received! Minister pledges to support EDP campaign and help solve blight of phone ‘not spots’
- Credit: Archant Norfolk
Landowners must play their part in improving mobile phone signal, minister Ed Vaizey has said as he also pledged to work with the EDP to try to sort out signal not spots which blight the lives of many communities in Norfolk and Suffolk.
Landowners must play their part in improving mobile phone signal, minister Ed Vaizey said yesterday as he pledged to work with the EDP to try to sort out signal 'not spots' which blight the lives of many communities in Norfolk and Suffolk.
The media minister admitted he shared widespread frustration about poor signal coverage during a Conservative Party Conference fringe event in Manchester yesterday, but claimed it was a sort of '3D chess' between the government, mobile operators and landlords.
The Conservative MP challenged landowners to engage with mobile giants by offering plots for a reasonable rent in a bid to help them expand coverage.
Kip Meek, director of spectrum strategy at the mobile giant Everything Everywhere, who was also part of the panel discussion, asked for regulation which could stop landlords being 'unreasonable' in the way they extract rent from telecommunications operators.
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The EDP wants to end the scandal of areas where people cannot use their mobiles – which is said to be crippling small rural businesses and cutting people off in emergencies.
Since the Let's Get Connected campaign was launched, the EDP has been inundated with readers describing the poor level of service.
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Last week prime minister David Cameron admitted more needed to be done on mobile not-spots and asked the EDP to pass on its responses to his colleague Mr Vaizey, who told the EDP yesterday he would 'try and sort it out'.
He said: 'Government has a role, the mobile operators clearly have a role and it may be that in certain areas they will push the ball back and say here is a landownder who will not allow us access to his land or whatever, so it needs to be that three way conversation and I would be delighted to participate in that.
'I think it is great the EDP is getting this evidence together because that is exactly what we need to look at a realistic solution which actually makes an impact on people's lives.'
Mr Vaizey told the event: 'I can't deliver you instant good news now in 2013, but I hope if we meet again in 2014 or dare I say it 2015, you will find the coverage is significantly improved.'
He would not pledge more government money, but left the door open for more support.
He said: 'On 4G let's see how the roll out goes and then when we are in a position where we have technology that is going to be in place for 10 years, we can identify where intervention is necessary.'
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport minister and Mr Meek both blamed a lack of investment on the huge price paid by mobile phone companies when the 3G network went up for auction in 2003.
Mr Vaizey said: 'The mobile operators paid a hell of a lot of money for 3G at the auction in 2003 so they haven't had the power to invest as much as they would like to. The 4G auction (earlier this year) was much more realistically priced. I expect 4G to solve an enormous amount of the problems you are experiencing in rural areas, all be it over a period of two years.'
Mr Meek praised the government's £150m mobile infrastructure project, which he said was a more efficient way of addressing some of the long-term problems.
He said: 'It is expensive to cover the whole of the country, that has become abundantly clear. Although there has been less investment than I would like to have seen over the last decade in rural coverage, we cannot get away from the fact it is expensive to expand the coverage.'
Your stories about problems you have faced because of poor, intermittent or nonexistent mobile phone coverage will help us to build up a powerful argument highlighting why this must be tackled. As well as signing our petition, you can tell us your stories to make the case for change. Write to Let's Get Connected, EDP, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone 01603 772459.