Increase of local Telekom rates would be another blow to render ‘zero credibility’ to the government’s ‘zero inflation’

by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Wednesday, November 8, 1995:

Increase of local Telekom rates would be another blow to render ‘zero credibility’ to the government’s ‘zero inflation’

The proposed increase of local Telekom rates, by introducing local telephone charges according to time used, would be another blow to render zero credibility to the government’s ‘zero inflation’ campaign.

Telekom Malaysia last reported a profit of RM1.4 billion and there is no justification for the increase of local Telekom rates by introducing charges according to time used.

This will also be a setback to propel Malaysia into the information age by intruding the maximum number of Malaysians to get into the Information Superhighway by getting onto the Internet.

At present, Jaring members who can get access to the Internet are allowed 300 Internet hours per year. It has been calculated that this could cost up to RM150 telephone charges a year. However, if local telephone charges are going to be levied according to time used, this could work out to RM780 per year at the rate of 13 sen every three minutes; or RM2,340 a year at the rate of 13 sen per minute.

These additional prohibitive telephone charges would work against the government policy to encourage a maximum number of Malaysians to explore and make use of the Internet, as it would even make many Malaysian who are already connected to the Internet to reduce their access to the Information Superhighway. One direct result would be creation of a new divide between the information-rich and the information-poor Malaysians – apart from bracketting Malaysia among the information-poor nations in the global information infrastructure (GII).

Telekom must not be allowed to impose charges on local calls according to time used to subsidise its reduction of tariffs for international trunk calls to fight cheaper international trunk tariffs provided by “call-back” services.

Although the Deputy Energy, Telecommunications and Posts Minister, Datuk Chan Kong Choy said that International Callback’s rates are roughly 30 per cent lower than Telekoms, there are those who claim International Callback’s rates are lower by half or more those of Telekom rates.

Chan said that under the Ministry’s present “telephone tariff re-balancing” exercise, the international telephone rates should be reduced to be cheaper, and perhaps even lower than international call-back services.

The question is why Telekoms had not reduced its international rates earlier, instead of having to be forced by competition by the International Callback providers.

In its rates review, the Energy, Telecommunications and Posts Ministry should be aware that soon there will be international providers, which would be able to provide international “callback” services at 10 cent-per-minute at US rates, using an Internet-based system.