Setting up own ISP only option for Sarawak govt to provide internet for rural folks

Aidel Lariwoo

KUCHING, July 21: Setting up a government-owned internet service provider (ISP) may be the only option to resolve the problems of poor internet coverage in the rural outskirts of Sarawak when telco companies are skeptical in undertaking the unprofitable task.

This is the view of Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) Backbenchers Club Deputy chairman Aidel Lariwoo, who stated that internet access is a basic human need in today’s world and the hurdles to provide it to rural Sarawakians are aplenty.

“We have had enough of proposals from the Sarawak DAP (Democratic Action Party). They haven’t even delivered on their litany of past proposals. A certain pledge of 50 per cent taxes collected to be returned to Sarawak and 20 per cent of oil and gas royalty springs to mind.

“To say the lack of internet connectivity in rural areas situation can magically be resolved akin to buying milk at the supermarket is appalling and shows how little DAP knows about the situation on the ground.

“We wonder what is MP for Mas Gading’s (Mordi Bimol) opinion about this issue as he is supposed to represent the rural people,” said Aidel in a statement today.

The statement is in response to DAP Sarawak chairman Chong Chieng Jen’s statement on July 19 where the Kota Sentosa assemblyman had compared Sarawak government’s effort to improve internet connectivity in rural areas to being a ‘hot-air’ project.

Chong had also compared the state government’s plan of setting up an ISP to buying a calf and raising it just because one wants to drink milk.

“Just because we want to drink a cup of milk, we buy a calf, feed it and let it grow and then we milk it to drink its milk. It is just similar to the Chief Minister’s suggestion that just because we want to provide internet services to the rural area, we set up a full-blown mobile internet service provider company. It will take time and so much more cost.

“If you want to drink a cup of milk, why not just go into a supermarket and select the type of milk you want and just pay for it?” Chong said and pointed out that Sarawak government should work with existing telco companies and subsidise their operations in rural areas.

But for Aidel who is also Sadong Jaya assemblyman, things are not as easy as Sarawak DAP portrayed.

“Telecommunication companies based in Malaya had doubts on whether they want to invest in these rural areas and for whatever reason they refused to provide internet coverage to these areas.

“This is where the problem lies, and by setting up an outfit where they will be the internet service provider (ISP), this is how the state government is looking to resolve the problem.

“Either way, if the plan comes through, Sarawak would have its own internet service provider company, providing jobs to local Information Technology (IT) graduates in the state, allowing them to make a living despite the world’s economic uncertainties.

“With a government-owned ISP, it would make the dream of low cost and widespread internet connectivity possible not only to the rural dwellers, but urban dwellers as well,” said Aidel.

He believed that it would cost a huge sum for Sarawak to form its own ISP but asserted that in the long term, “this will dwarf in comparison to the subsidy given by the state to government to mega-rich telco companies to compensate their loss of revenue operating in rural areas for however long which the Sarawak DAP suggested.”

He viewed Chong’s suggestion that Sarawak government should spend on better infrastructure and amenities for the people as an attempt at “trying to find any wrongdoings and shortcomings by the state government”, and argued that all projects of the Sarawak government were genuine effort to fulfill the needs of the people.

Meanwhile, apart from defending the GPS government, Aidel questioned why DAP, which claims to be a rural-centric party, is so much against rural development and efforts to provide rural dwellers with better facilities?

“For a party claiming to be in touch with the people, they are once again out of touch.

“It is a well-known fact that the state government is setting up more telecommunication towers in rural areas across the state, but setting up towers alone is not enough as we need the internet service that comes along with it.

“It is similar to buying a car, it won’t move without any fuel in it. This continuous supply of fuel is what the state government wants to acquire.

“This is a government that not only talks, but delivers on its promises rather than debating what the people should and shouldn’t have.

“The people don’t need leaders who think that people’s needs should be politicised and that development should be an afterthought rather than the utmost priority,” Aidel stressed.—DayakDaily