Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC at the Second Reading of the Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill [Bill No. 30/2016]
Madam, I rise in support of this Bill. These amendments include operational improvements, and also provide clarity on how telecommunication operators are regulated.
The amendments also lay an important foundation for the introduction of next generation mobile technology – which includes the building up of our Smart Nation sensor network.
Madam, allow me to share three suggestions for the Ministry to look into.
Objection to access to their property
Firstly, on the objection by owners or occupiers of the land or building to a telecommunication licensee accessing their property, can the Minister share how many of such written objections have been lodged over the past three years? In addition, on how many occasions over the past three years have the authority authorised the works to be carried out despite the objections and following the enquiry?
The amendments to Section 14 adds an additional step where the “Authority must notify the public telecommunication licensee concerned to resolve the dispute with the objector due to the objection”. Also, “On receipt of the Authority’s notice, the public telecommunication licensee must take genuine steps to resolve the dispute with the objector due to the objection”.
Can the Minister clarify how long the telecommunication licensee is given to try to resolve the dispute? And is there a timeframe provided for the Authority to hold an inquiry from the time a written objection is lodged?
I expect that most of the time, there should not be strong reasons for objection, but – in some cases, owners could have legitimate reservations and this should be promptly looked into.
Ensuring better service
Secondly, we should ensure that the additional efforts to deploy mobile equipment provided by this Bill do lead to better connection.
I understand that the installation of mobile equipment is primarily for the economic benefit of mobile operators. With this in mind, would the Ministry consider ensuring that operators ensure a guaranteed minimum standard of broadband service to all customers?
This would go beyond service levels on coverage, but include a requirement on speed. For example, all 4G customers within a certain area of any installed mobile broadband equipment should be guaranteed a certain Internet speed.
If speeds fall below a certain level, the operator must respond within a certain time to remedy any issues. Such a regulated guarantee would also provide more comfort to owners that the equipment installed on their roofs will benefit them as well.
Third, a minor point on an inconvenience faced by consumers. Consumers should have a choice on which networking equipment they can use, now that the amendments propose for internet and mobile operators to have a choice on where best to install their equipment.
Currently, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) often require customers to use a default modem and router, which is rented or bought from the ISP.
This means that if the customer has an existing router or modem, they will not be allowed to use it. For example, unless you are subscribing to the most expensive plan, SingTel currently requires that you use their own modem.
I had a personal experience with this inconvenience. Recently, I bought a new wireless router. However, when my ISP’s support came, I was told that I would not be able to use it. So, I ended up buying a device I was not allowed to use in my own home. Speaking up on behalf of consumers, would the Ministry consider taking steps to change this?
Madam, apart from the clarifications requested and the suggestion for improvements, I stand in support of the Bill.