Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin has recently accused the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) for not doing anything in the past 8 months to improve internet connectivity in underserved areas. He said this in Parliament while responding to Arau MP Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim on Tuesday.
When asked about the status of Malaysia’s internet coverage specially in rural areas of Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia, Zahidi Zainul provided the figures of current 4G population coverage which is at 92.03% nationwide. However, Sabah and Sarawak has a lower 4G coverage at 74.31% and 73.67% respectively.
He also explained what is needed to improve coverage which includes adding more mobile towers and upgrading transmitters. For extremely remote areas, satellite technology will be deployed.
Apart from increasing the number of premises with fibre connectivity from 4.95 million to 7.5 million nationwide, the government also aims to increase 4G coverage under the JENDELA plan.
Before wrapping up his response, the Deputy Minister told Parliament that the several planned projects to improve connectivity are not out yet. He also suggested for MPs in affected areas to make an appeal and he said MCMC has not done anything for 8 months. He urged appeals to be made again so that connectivity improvement projects for rural areas can be expedited.
Zahidi also claims that he has requested for the status of these projects but MCMC has yet to provide the report.
The commission has issued a statement to respond to comments made on the internet connectivity problems faced in Sabah and Sarawak, as well as rural areas in Peninsular Malaysia. The MCMC says it has taken responsive steps to bridge the digital divide and to address connectivity issues nationwide.
This includes addressing connectivity problems in areas such as Kampung Sapatalang and Mengkapon in Pitas and Kiulu, in Tuaran, Sabah, and Kampung Kongsi 14 in Bukit Selambau, Kedah.
The commission has also worked closely with providers to improve connectivity at community internet centres. Recently, TM had upgraded the internet centre closest to Veveonah Mosibin with 300Mbps fibre connectivity. It also added that 13 new mobile towers planned for Pitas and Kampung Mengkapon under NFCP 1 are still waiting for approval from the state government.
For Kiulu, 4G coverage improvement works in 6 areas are currently underway and this is made possible with the cooperation from Tuaran MP Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau. Meanwhile, a temporary base station has been erected at Kampung Kongsi 14 in Bukit Selambau and this is made possible with help from the Kedah state government.
The MCMC is closely monitoring the implementation of the JENDELA plan and the working committee conducts bi-weekly meetings. The committee also meets with the Minister of Communications and Multimedia, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah every two months.
The MCMC also says that they are working closely with each respective Menteri Besar and Chief Ministers to expedite the approval process. By end of 2020, the MCMC targets to achieve 352,101 premises with gigabit connectivity and as of 31st October, the progress is at 96.4%. Meanwhile, 4G upgrade works planned in 2020 for coverage improvement is now 83.2% complete. The status of other targets will be presented during JENDELA’s first quarter report in mid-December 2020.
The same Deputy Communications minister had made several controversial remarks since he took office earlier in March this year. Several months ago, he called Veveonah a fraud when he couldn’t provide an update on the NFCP progress in Sabah. He later put the blame on another MP for providing the wrong info.
Shortly after that, Zahidi Zainul had told reporters that the government plans to introduce a 20 sen eCommerce Tax for online shopping which sparked public outrage. The next day, his own Ministry had issued a statement to refute claims that a new tax will be introduced.