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TIMECOM (5031) TIME DOTCOM BHD CEO claims corrupt elements in State Govts are hindering telco infra rollout

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 18): Some of the issues faced by telecommunication companies (telcos) in rolling out network infrastructure in Malaysia include corrupt people behind State Chief Ministers, claimed TIME dotCom Bhd chief executive officer Afzal Abdul Rahim.  

Afzal said while the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) is focused on its objective of ensuring quality access to digital connectivity nationwide, telco service providers are often hindered by having to deal with State leaders' henchmen, who have what he termed as "ancillary business ambition".

"The moment MCMC leaves [a meeting], the telco CEOs will get calls from these henchmen around the Menteri Besar asking us 'actually how can we make money from this? You are making so much money, surely we can make some cuts here and there'. I mean this is the reality on the ground.

"It is this irritating business ambition culture surrounding the State Governments which is causing these problems," he lamented.

Afzal was airing out his grievances on the challenges he faced in rolling out network infrastructure during a media briefing held by MCMC on the release of its first quarterly report on Jalinan Digital Negara (JENDELA) today.

The media briefing was hosted by MCMC chairman Dr Fadhlullah Suhaimi Abdul Malek, and was attended by industry players including DiGi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd CEO Albern Murty, Maxis Bhd CEO Gokhan Ogut, Telekom Malaysia Bhd MD & Group CEO Imri Mokhtar, Celcom Axiata Bhd COO (Technology) Afizulazha Abdullah, and U Mobile Sdn Bhd CTO Woon Ooi Yuen.

Afzal acknowledged that there is political will from the Federal and State level to enhance internet connectivity in Malaysia, but the problem lies with local authorities, who are hindering the progress of infrastructure rollout.

"Yes, there are things that telcos can do better but the single biggest hindrance to rollout of network infrastructure in Malaysia is the local authorities," Afzal said.

MCMC's Fadhlullah concurred, saying that even the Ministry of Housing and Local Government does not have the authority to impose on local councils to help expedite certain bureaucratic processes.

"We are doing our level best by going down to the ground to convince the highest level in the State and our approach to them is that we're telling them that with telecommunications, investment will come into your State.

"But we need the public to assist us, to push the local authorities to make the changes for the benefit of end users like you and I," he said.

On Oct 28, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah called for all State Governments and local authorities to consider including the third utility — internet connectivity — in their development plans, which will help the country push forward its digital infrastructure plan JENDELA.

A Bernama report quoted Saifuddin as saying that bureaucracy and red tape should be eliminated to assist the Government's effort in further accelerating internet access or connectivity in the country, which has now become an important facility.

Internet connectivity as a third utility — after water and electricity — refers to the effort by the Government to recognise internet connectivity as a public utility in order to address the issue of delays in the provision of telecommunication infrastructure and internet access.

Saifuddin said the delays, which could take up to 18 months especially in new areas, were due to the fact that internet connectivity was not regarded as a utility in the Planning Permission (KM) granted by the local authorities.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on Aug 29 announced that the Government would develop a digital infrastructure plan known as JENDELA, in a bid to improve the country's digital communications under the 12th Malaysia Plan (2021-2025).

The plan will lay the foundation for comprehensive and high-quality broadband coverage facilities as well as to prepare the country for the transition towards 5G technology.


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