Call on Keng Yaik to table the National Broadband Plan Version 2 in Parliament before adjournment of two-month Dewan Rakyat budget meeting  on Tuesday to initiate national debate on the future of ICT in general and broadband in particular in Malaysia


Speech (2)
at the 44th birthday dinner for Lim Guan Eng
by Lim Kit Siang

(Malacca, Wednesday): In Parliament this morning, partly because of the constraint of time, I was unable to get a satisfactory or acceptable reply by the Deputy Energy, Water and Communications Deputy  Minister, Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor during his winding-up of the debate on the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (Amendment) Bill 2004 as to why the National Broadband Plan had not been tabled in Parliament or fully made public.

According to the latest statistics available on the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) homepage, as of  30th September this year, the number of broadband subscribers in the country  is the  miserable figure of 218,004  representing 0.85 per cent broadband penetration rate as compared to 78% for South Korea (given by the Energy, Water and Communications Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik six weeks ago). 

As high-speed Internet access represented by broadband technology  is increasingly an important indicator of a country’s ranking as a knowledge-based economy, Malaysia has been asked to learn valuable lessons as to how to jump-start a broadband powerhouse from South Korea. 

South Korea has made phenomenal progress as the first country in the world to realize the vision of a broadband society, as in 1996, fewer than one per cent of South Korean residents used the Internet.  By 2005, more than 80 per cent of households in South Korea would have access to fast broadband connections of 20 mbps (megabits per second) or more – about the rate needed for high-definition television. 

In Malaysia, our broadband record  is a far cry from that of South Korea, not only on penetration rate with only 0.8 per cent as compared to some 80 per cent, but also broadband speed, with  the average South Korean household subscriber getting high-speed Internet connection of 8 mbps, which is more than 22 times faster than the Malaysian broadband speed of 384 kbps or eight times faster than 1 mbps. 

The important question is why Malaysia has trailed so badly behind South Korea when the two countries started off on the journey towards an IT future at almost the same time and at the same level -  in fact, it could even be argued that Malaysia started at a higher level, especially with the announcement of the Multimedia Super Corridor as “a gift to the world” in 1996? 

Shaziman conceded this morning that the government has implemented the National Broadband Plan (NBP), but nobody knows anything about this NBP apart from its objective to push broadband penetration rate from 0.8 per cent  or 218,004 subscribers in September 2004 to 5% or 1.3 million connections in 2006 and 10% or 2.8 million subscribers in 2008, how the Plan targets are to be achieved and even more important, why the earlier National Broadband Plan was abandoned. 

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission had earlier spent a million ringgit to commission an ambitious National Broadband Plan which was completed in April last year, with the ambitious plan to get half  of all the country’s household broadband-enabled by 2007 – but this million-ringgit NBP was thrown into the wastepaper basket by Keng Yaik when he became Minister for Energy, Water and Communications after the March general election, commissioning his own Plan instead which he is now implementing. Nobody seems called upon to account for this one million ringgit foregone!

I call on Keng Yaik to table the National Broadband Plan Version 2  in Parliament before adjournment of the  two-month Dewan Rakyat budget meeting  on Tuesday to initiate a nation-wide  debate on the future of ICT in general and broadband in particular in Malaysia. 

For years, the previous Multimedia Minister had been talking about promoting broadband access by   “opening up the last mile” or “unbundling the local loop”, i.e.  creating a more level playing field by allowing broadband providers to make use of Telekom’s last mile of copper cable to deliver broadband to end-users. 

In South Korea, no single company has a virtual monopoly over the last mile, which means that the country did not have to face the last-mile hurdle experienced in Malaysia, which is particularly crucial as Telekom Malaysia owns about 97 per cent of the last mile of copper cable.  Lack of access to the last mile is one of the issues that has prevented higher utilization of the fibre-optic cable networks in the country, with utilization estimated at  only 30 per cent.  

Keng Yaik’s National Broadband Policy Version 2 should address the “last mile” issue, as to whether the government is prepared to phase out the “last mile” monopoly of Telekom within a period of 12 to 24 months, as well as other important questions like  universal and affordable broadband access, digital divide, etc.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman