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John Burns' Blog

Connected? Not Where I'm Standing

Published: Thursday, December 8, 2016

A friend recently told me that fat (or overweight) dogs are my specialist subject.  Perhaps I'll put myself forward for Mastermind.  

In other news, The National Infrastructure Commission has just concluded that the UK has poorer mobile phone coverage than Albania, Panama Peru and Romania.  I don't think you need to be part of a National Commission to know that.  

It's not just in sleepy West Wales. Wherever I've been lately in the UK, the phone signal is dreadful. In spite of huge advances in technology, I don't think the signal has improved in 20 years.  

Grant Shapps, former chair of the Tory Party and government minister criticised the phone companies and Ofcom - the regulatory authority - for failing to do more to improve coverage. On that point I think Mr Shapps has missed something. Mr Shapps' party has been extolling the virtues of market place since Mrs Thatcher's time.  The doctrine that governments should step aside and let the market rule is the only game in town. We've been living this experiment for almost 40 years through Tory, New Labour and coalition governments.  If ever there has been a failure of markets, this is it.  But the abysmal telephone system is only the latest; the collapse of the banks and the subsequent recession was another.  

Another market failure which hasn't quite landed yet is the failure to develop a new antibiotic for more than 20 years.  This is a pressing issue which requires public investment.

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