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Internet services monopoly not working out well

This is ridiculous! One month, and technicians at TM Net are unable to put their act together to install some decent Internet connection for the consumers.

Despite the matter being brought to the attention of Communication and Multimedia minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), the outcome is another long wait.

I last highlighted that numerous breakdowns suffered over the past six months had forced me to terminate the account with ABNXcess early this month. I then contacted Maxis Fibre Optics, but was told that there were no ports available within my area.

They have to wait for TM Net to respond within two weeks to let them know if there is a port available. After two weeks, I was told TM Net has agreed to open more ports but it will be until July 31 before an appointment with the technician could be fixed to install the Internet connection.

The reason, as explained by the Maxis customer care consultant, is because TM Net is the owner of the infrastructure in my housing estate; therefore, Maxis has to depend on the TM Net technicians to respond before their own technicians can do anything to install the services.

According to sources close to the Internet and communications industry, TM Net controls at least 90 percent of the market. Some Internet service providers such as Maxis and Time Dot Com have their infrastructure, but mainly available to multi-storey buildings and certain selected areas.

Meanwhile, for the rest of the country, the monopoly belongs to TM Net. There is where the lack of competition leading to inefficiency of TM Net in providing the best quality of service becomes a thorn for consumers and businesses.

This does not jive well especially for a country that seeks to become a knowledge economy by 2020.

The Internet connection fees charged by telcos are also high by comparison, while the speed is only a fraction compared to the more advanced Asian countries such as South Korea and Singapore.

The blame why and how we have reached such a state of affair has to fall on the Communications and Multimedia Ministry, and its minister, whose job is supposed to oversee the development of the ICT industry in the country.

While it has to be acknowledged that laying of cable and infrastructure requires huge capital investment, TM Net cannot afford to slack, especially when it involves a partnership with other telcos.

Set reasonable targets

The ministry has to set certain reasonable targets for TM Net to meet, failing of which it should be hauled up for questioning; otherwise, there is no point for Ahmad Shabery to complain that Ookla Gobal Net Index has given an unfair ranking for Malaysia.

Or, for Shabery to claim that the country’s broadband speed at 5.9 mbps is better than two other Third World economies, namely Cambodia (5.6Mbps) and Myanmar (5.7Mbps) is akin to the minister saying that both Cambodia and Myanmar have advanced, while Malaysia has gone backwards by 10 or 20 years.

Certainly, I do not wish to hear the minister saying that this is another political conspiracy by Ookla and other conspirators within the country to remove him as a cabinet minister.

The survey done by Ookla is clearly an objective survey carried out based on data collected, and Malaysia is currently placed at 126 out of 192 nations in terms of Internet broadband speeds.

Let us celebrate the fact that we are currently at the bottom half of the spectrum worldwide, as “half-past-six” (borrowing the apt description concocted recently by former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad) is better than none.

STEPHEN NG is an ordinary citizen with an avid interest in following political developments in the country since 2008.

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