SMA to operate rural internet services

Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg

KUCHING: The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) will soon provide Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA) with a licence to operate internet services in rural areas.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said he met with Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah last week and had requested for the Universal Service Provision (USP) licence.

He pointed out that the state government through SMA had to step in to provide such services as telecommunication (telco) companies were reluctant to operate in most remote regions.

“We construct the towers, but there are no operators because major telco companies do not want to go there,” he said at the launch of free school bus service here on Wednesday.

He explained that to these telco companies, infrastructure and operations were costly in the remote areas, while the small population did not create enough market for them to operate.

This had resulted in internet connectivity problems in rural areas.

“Since they do not want to go, the state government will have to go. However, we need the licence.

“I told the minister to give the licence to SMA. SMA will go to these areas and operate. If there are operational losses, the government will bear it so that the people can have internet connectivity,” said Abang Johari.

With this, he said the state government could provide internet services at a subsidised rate so that rural folk such as farmers would not have to pay so much.

According to the chief minister, SMA had constructed about 170 telco towers so far.  He said that the state government was targeting to have 1,400 telco towers – covering the whole of Sarawak by 2025.