COMMENT | During the previous BN administration under Najib Abdul Razak, the Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) was misused as a major oppressor of freedom of speech in the online space.
The MCMC had often been made an extension to the police, executing criminal investigations by invoking the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) to undermine the rights of politicians, NGOs and civilians opposed to the previous regime.
In particularly, Section 233 of the CMA, under the broad-based provision to deal with “improper use of network facilities or network services,” had found countless targets and victims, ranging from rapper Namewee to current finance minister-designate Lim Guan Eng.
So much so that the UK-based rights watchdog Article 19 concluded that CMA has overtaken the Sedition Act as a gag tool of choice in Malaysia.
All this has to come to an end under ‘Malaysia 2.0’. The commission, alongside its current set of board members and salaried management teams, must be purged and replaced with those who concur with the aspirations of the taxpayers, as expressed decisively through the ballot box.
Let us be reminded that MCMC was established to serve the governed, not the governors.
Thorough reforms in MCMC must be instituted immediately so that it fully complies with the original tenets of its establishment, that is further enabled by the CMA “to provide for and to regulate the converging communications and multimedia industries”.
Besides this, the MCMC must be made to redeem itself in its fundamental deliverables encompassing economic, technical, consumer protection and social regulations. Let there be political will to purge the commission of its ills and have it reset to return to its original cause.
In the wake of the recent regime change in Malaysia, we must overhaul and update the CMA. In the two decades since its passing, communication and multimedia industries have seen extensive changes in the CMA’s dynamics.
The latest amendment to CMA, via Act 1220/2004, largely centred on tightening curbs and gags on the civilians. The Act is now in dire need of a total revamp to support national interests in the face of new challenges presented by Industry 4.0.
It is time to place Malaysia among Asia’s top five in terms of communications and multimedia.
New regulatory framework and economic policies must be exerted on all individual licensees (NFP and NSP categories) so that their last-mile service delivery performance and investment returns are on-par with network operators in South Korea, China, Singapore and Japan.
The parameters of performance appraisal are in terms of leapfrogging broadband network quality and last-mile speed, reducing consumer take-up cost, reducing wholesale bandwidth price and laying a level playing field for all licensed operators for the 5G network that looms in the near future. A performance appraisal chart must be displayed transparently on MCMC’s website, at least on a weekly basis.
The intentional oligarchical disconnect between wireless and landline broadband infrastructure owners must be removed to reduce the overlapping national capital expenditure on communications and multimedia infrastructure.
This must be done with an unwavering view to reducing total national operating costs outflowed in the form of net losses in foreign exchange. In return, the cost savings derived can be made to benefit and to support total cost reduction of ownership at the end-user levels, be they in the commercial or retail consumer sectors.
National network firm must be created
Furthermore, a national network company should be created with shareholders among stakeholders (MCMC licensees) to build an superfast broadband network traversing overland, terrestrial and submarine modes, in collaboration with major players at a G2G level.
This is aimed at removing predatory costs levied by multiple duopolies transporting mass data critically required by the transboundary e-commerce sector, creative content streaming and IP packet-based exchanges across global and multiple commercial domains. Break down the network warlords, and the industry shall grow.
A new standards-supported framework and guidelines must be established to implement a national grid, with redundancy and disaster recovery protocol for a resilient fibre backhaul, equivalent to other basic utilities – like water, power and sewage.
Real-time maintenance of an underground utility mapping databank, as is currently practiced in China, is mandatory in maintaining such a mission-critical national grid for communications and multimedia network.
A world-class network security protocol must be built that is resilient to thwart would-be cyber-warfare within the launch capacity of unauthorised intruders. Network downtime and data blackout is a serious security threat with current geopolitics.
An ethics and integrity framework for procurement related to the industry’s infrastructural components is also needed. For a start, we need to identify and benchmark lobbyist vendors against standards proprietors adopted by the top five broadband countries in the world.
Time is of absolute essence. All these reforms must be executed immediately and accomplished within four years from now.
Admittedly, Malaysia has abundant calibre in terms of technical know-how, financial management skills and international expertise in networking to get things done. But first, we must overhaul and totally revamp MCMC to prevent it from becoming a systemic obstacle that continues to benefit only the remnants of the old regime.
JEFF OOI is former MP for Jelutong, online activist, columnist and blogger. He has published books on the IT industry, politics and economy.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.