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United Kingdom Government Networking The Almighty Buck IT Politics

UK Govt's Expensive Mobile Coverage Project Builds Just 8 Masts In 4 Years 75

An anonymous reader points out a dismal report at The Register on a project intended by the UK government to connect lots of internet have-nots, but which has so far not accomplished as much as hoped. The Mobile Infrastructure Project is intended to provide last-mile connectivity, but the project has languished, and fallen short of its promises. This year, Department for Culture, Media and Sport has managed to erect only six masts, which can serve about 200 homes apiece. Originally more than 575 sites had been commissioned, following the publication of the “no coverage” database by watchdog Ofcom. At the rate seen so far of four masts a year it will take over 140 years to complete the £150m Mobile Infrastructure Project. The original deadline was to to have all the sites equipped and live by the end of 2015. However, that deadline was extended to March 2016 to "ensure that benefits of the program are maximized."
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UK Govt's Expensive Mobile Coverage Project Builds Just 8 Masts In 4 Years

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  • by perryizgr8 ( 1370173 ) on Saturday September 19, 2015 @04:50AM (#50554827)

    Despite evidence like this which speaks volumes about government intervention in what is a free-market area of expertise, we still have so many people clamoring for the government to offer all kinds of services like healthcare, telephone, internet, etc.

    • Meh, it's just a question of management and accountability, this project clearly had very little of either. Projects farmed out to the private sector with stiff penalties for delays and failures (with insurance to cover the costs in case of bankruptcies) can quite often be an adequate way to get the most out of public funds. And/or ditch the jobs for life mentality that many government workers seem to have.

      • Often times the most effective public works projects are managed with a combination of for profit private enterprise and sober government oversight.

        The original deadline was to to have all the sites equipped and live by the end of 2015. However, that deadline was extended to March 2016 to "ensure that benefits of the programme are maximised.

        Except for the colloquial spelling distinctions, almost exactly the same as most USian government projects.

        If the exaggerated completion scope can be remediated by some massive cost overruns, then it is precisely the same.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      It's easy to say government doesn't work when your side is busy doing everything in its power to ensure that outcome.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Saturday September 19, 2015 @05:51AM (#50554939) Journal
      It certainly sounds like they fucked this project up pretty vigorously(if nothing else, even if it is amazingly difficult for some reason, failing to identify that ahead of time is bad); but there is one important aspect you fail to note: The project's objective was to provide coverage to areas that private operators were not providing coverage to. Exactly what mixture of 'potential customers too poor'/'topography ensures lousy RF propagation'/'planning permission, rights of way, and fights with the neighbors will be a march through hell' caused private operators to ignore these areas is unknown, at least from this article; but for one reason or another providing cell coverage was an area of utter disinterest and/or inability for the private sector in these areas.

      That's a pretty major distinction: walking in on something that the private sector is doing vigorously and competently and deciding that we need a Ministry of Whatever is folly. Coming into a situation that the private sector is unable or unwilling to address and doing something about it is what 'the public sector' is all about.

      There is room for debate about what counts as 'unable or unwilling', and when we should do something vs. just let them suck it up; but 'do what the private sector won't or can't' is essentially the mission statement of even libertarian governments(they just interpret that as a pretty small number of things).
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      The free market failed to deliver essential services. The government encouraged the free market to serve those areas, but the free market still failed. The logical conclusion is that the government should just provide the services directly itself.

    • Before you talk about public vs private inefficiencies I suggest you look up some private sector project fuckups as well. Just an anecdote but I witnessed a $50m project to upgrade a process plant to reduce acid consumption. It was originally a $10m project. That got changed half way through, then got changed half way through the new scope, and then got changed again a 3rd time. I'm sure they would have made changes again but they canned the project after spending $40m and have absolutely zero to show for i

  • by 3.14159265 ( 644043 ) on Saturday September 19, 2015 @05:23AM (#50554893)
    These two series of documentaries are necessary if you wish to understand the politics of government and public service:
    Yes, Minister [imdb.com] and Yes, Primer Minister [imdb.com].
  • FTFA:

    It added there had been problems with site providers' willingness to allow a mast to be erected, local planning application, the availability of power and access and meeting the final value for money test based on build costs rather than forecast costs.

    In other words, they fudged the numbers to make it look cost effective and ignored that fact that they can't just walk in and force people to give up their private property..

  • They have pills for that now, y'know...
  • 4 years isn't much time to give it. In the UK you need something called planning permission before you erect a mast. It's very hard to get, especially in rural areas.
    • by ledow ( 319597 )

      I work for a private school that's near a huge town inside the M25. It sits in the middle of borough-owned land and the land was sold to the borough with a permanent legal edict that it can only be used for a school. Thus, even the government can never build anything else on it but a school. There are no neighbours to speak of (the school owns most of the surrounding buildings for staff), and nobody can even SEE the school from the local towns/roads anyway as its so set back. There are huge full-size py

  • TL;DR version (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mr_Silver ( 213637 ) on Saturday September 19, 2015 @09:11AM (#50555519)

    UK network operators are castigated by the UK Government for not building out mobile coverage in rural areas.

    Network Operators respond by pointing out that they don't because of the difficulty in finding locations to provide the required coverage, local planning applications, the availability of power and problems with site access.

    UK Government says "amateurs, we can do it better than you" so sets up project to do just that.

    Project spectacularly fails to achieve anything and sheepishly admits that the reasons for its failure are due to the difficulty in finding locations to provide the required coverage, local planning applications, the availability of power and problems with site access.

  • "The Mobile Infrastructure Project is intended to provide last-mile connectivity, but the project has languished, and fallen short of its promises."

    Sounds like it's going to plan, as in spending as much government money as possible ..

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