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UK government relies on operator cooperation for emergency text messages

Every UK mobile subscriber should receive a text message from the government today, telling them to stay at home and linking to the new restrictions.

This was only made possible with the cooperation of the country’s operators, as there is no dedicated public messaging system in place. The UK government had a look at developing such a thing back in 2013, but after a year apparently decided it couldn’t be bothered. Maybe that was because it concluded it could always get the operators to do the job for it.

According to the BBC this sets a new precedent. It also suggests the reason the standalone system was abandoned was that it was too expensive. As we’re now finding out, even in the freest countries the state can grant itself almost limitless powers in times of emergency, which vindicates the government decision not to blow public funds when perfectly good networks were already in place.

Nonetheless the Guardian has had a bit of a moan about the current situation, paradoxically lamenting the fact that the absence of a dedicated public communications system has left it reliant on the media to keep the UK people up to date. Another perspective could be that this is a great example of successful public/private partnerships reducing redundancy and needles expense.

While strict lockdowns have been taking place all over the world as countries try desperately to slow the spread of the disease, the UK government has only resorted to legal force today after appeals to reason failed. UK operators deserve praise for stepping up to the plate to aid the collective struggle in this way and, with the successful precedent set, will doubtless be called upon to serve their country many more times before this is over.


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