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Free radio spectrum – another aviation subsidy

27th January, 2010

Yet another example of subsidies for the aviation industry surfaced recently.

There was policy u-turn last year which all but abandoned plans to charge for the radio spectrum used by airport radar.  Telecoms companies would pay many millions for this.

This might be at least partly explained by a remark Conservative shadow ransport minister, Teresa Villiers, let slip in a speech to the aviation industry recently: “The importance we attribute to a healthy regional airport sector was one of the reasons why we opposed Ofcom’s misguided proposals to charge for the use of radio spectrum for aeronautical radar systems and navigation aids.”

She continued in her support for the industry: ” .. For example at Birmingham, proposals for a modest runway extension, enabling longer haul destinations to be more readily served, command a considerable degree of local support.”

This argument does not hold water.  We do not see any justification for free radio spectrum for airports when other sectors of the economy such as telecoms have to pay for it.  It is a limited resource much in demand  which commercial users should pay for.  This is just another example of hidden subsidies which artificially lower prices and thereby boost demand for air travel and distort the economy.

It is ironic that more aviation, which is highly damaging and polluting, is being subsided and encouraged by this policy when telecomms, its major competitor for business travel and which is far less damaging and polluting, has to pay its costs.