27 August 2015

Some pylône posers

Most people in the UK with smartphones know all too well that, as they drive away from a built-up area, their reception moves from 3G (possibly preceded by 4G if they’re lucky) to GPRS (2G) and, if they turn off an A-road, to quite possibly nothing (0G). So it’s not surprising that the government’s 10-point plan to improve rural productivity – snappily entitled Towards a one nation economy: A 10-point plan for boosting productivity in rural areas – which came out in August has set a goal of ‘High quality, widely available mobile communications’. In particular:
The government will put in place the right conditions, and work actively with providers, to ensure rural areas have the best possible coverage of high quality mobile services: 
The government will work closely with industry to support further improvements to mobile coverage in the UK. This will supplement the legally binding obligation on Mobile Network Operators to provide voice and SMS text coverage to 90% of the UK by 2017 and Telefonica’s licence obligation to deliver indoor 4G coverage to 98% of UK premises by 2017. 
• The government proposes to extend permitted development rights to taller mobile masts in both protected and non-protected areas in England to support improved mobile connectivity, subject to conclusions from the Call for Evidence which closes on 21 August 2015. (page 13)
“Taller” can be taken as meaning more than the 20 metres which is currently the maximum in the UK. 25 metre masts are in common use elsewhere in Europe, for example this mast (pylône) which is under construction in South West France: 

- not a pretty thing, but nicely positioned between sunflowers and vines. The logos on one of the cabinets at its base reveal that it belongs to Orange, provider of communications services in France and formerly known as France Telecom:

Nearby was this notice (the name of the nearby commune has been obscured to spare the innocent any embarrassment):

It is common practice in France for public works to have an explanation of their cost and sources of funding on a placard nearby*. In this case, nearly a quarter is coming from the European Union, in particular their fund for regional development (FEDER). I would be very interested to know:

Why is the Aquitaine region, not a poor region of France and certainly not one of the EU’s neediest, receiving development funds?

On the good-luck-to-them-if-they-can-get-away-with-it principle, are UK regions receiving similar assistance? If not, why not?

Orange is a private company, albeit one with a large government shareholding, and, as in the UK, there are other mobile telephone providers – so how does that work? How are the pylônes and FEDER funds being spread across the providers or does Orange scoop the lot?

Why was a 17 weeks (semaines) of works (travaux) project, expected to end (fin) on 30 March, still not finished 17 weeks later?

More seriously, there are anecdotes that there are teams located throughout the French government dedicated to identifying and securing EU sources of funding. French civil servants probably have more experience and a better understanding of the EU budgets and their operation (often by French fonctionnaires seconded to Brussels) than those of any other country. I suspect that sadly the UK ranks with Latvia, Hungary or Malta when it comes to playing the EU system.


This post seems to have generated more interest than many – particularly in Germany, I wonder why.

* Just an afterthought about “public works [having] an explanation of their cost and sources of funding on a placard nearby”. I would be happy to see this in the UK because it would improve the public’s understanding of how taxes are spent and the capital costs of public investment. It’s unlikely to happen for various reasons: the widespread use of PFI – government finance off balance sheet. Also in the UK not many projects are funded from multiple sources. The Treasury (UK finance ministry) would hate this – it might lose control if there were too many parties and budgets involved, particularly its ability to cancel and delay projects.

No comments:

Post a Comment