A new policy unveiled by the UK government to fine mobile phone operators for not providing coverage for their customers could have a dramatic impact on the classic “no phone signal” horror movie cliché.
Horror writers, novelists and filmmakers beware: the UK government has just thrown a spanner in your dramatic twist. You might need your protagonist cut-off from civilised society in order for the ghost, ghoul, zombie or crazy psychopath to have their wicked way with your “final girl” but if she’s still got her phone she’ll be able to call, tweet or Snapchat her way to saviour!
That’s thanks to a new government initiative to penalise mobile phone operators if they fail to hit the target of 90% coverage in the UK by the end of 2017. Ofcom, which regulates the communications sector, will be given powers to order financial penalties if operators such as Vodafone and O2 fail to provide the signal coverage they promised. They should be “held to account” said Ministers.
The proposal can be found in the Digital Economy Bill that is currently being considered by MPs and is seen as a way to curb perceived constraints to economic growth because of weak or zero signal in some rural areas.
Former digital economy minister Ed Vaizey said he had failed in implementing the government’s plans to cut so-called “not spots” despite having £150m of public spending to solve the issue. He had a good excuse though: “Our heart was in the right place,” said the man stripped of his post following the demise of David Cameron’s cabinet.
The MP now in his job – Matt Hancock – noted the critical role mobile phones play in our daily life. He admitted Ofcom currently isn’t equipped to punish mobile phone operators – its powers to start criminal proceedings probably taking things a little too far – so he’s eager to provide it with the tools to make a positive difference.
Plans suggest operators could be charged 10% of their “relevant gross revenue” which, when you consider Vodafone Group’s revenue last year was north of £40bn, would be a hefty penalty to pay. That said, failing to meet targets and being forced to pay would add handy additional monies to the government’s coffers which could be wisely spent on public services, even given to the junior doctors!
Hancock remarked: “In the digital age, getting a mobile signal is a critical part of modern life. It’s vital for the economy as well as personal calls, texts and web browsing.
“The mobile operators have signed up to legally binding obligations to deliver coverage to at least nine tenths of Britain. This new legislation will mean the Government can ensure their commitments are delivered.”
So in summation – let’s expect a better phone signal in more places around the UK and less horror film sequences in which victims are bemoaning they can’t WhatsApp their way out of trouble.
Oh, but what if the battery dies. Damn it!