I’ve been living in small villages for 5-1/2 years now. For five of those years I could get a bullshit PCCW dsl line that was advertised at 8 megabits per second but in reality topped out at 5 for a higher price than people on HK island pay for a 1 gigabit per second line. Now I live in a place where PCCW can’t even figure out how to get a wire to.
Anyway, one of my readers sent me this link to this ATV World Inside Story episode that does a very good job of covering the issue. Only PCCW wires the villages, they have no competition, so they offer shitty service at a high price. The report mentions that HK Broadband is willing to wire some of the villages but is having a difficult time getting government permits to tear up the roads to lay cables. I’m sure the government has no interest in helping the son of the richest man in Hong Kong maintain his monopoly on this service. (cough, cough)
As the story says, many people resort to using mobile internet – it doesn’t mention 3G and 4G USB modems as an alternative to tethering with a mobile phone, and also doesn’t mention how horrible the mobile coverage can be in many villages, though there is a demonstration of why the signal is often erratic. But when it works – about 75% of the time – I’m getting speeds with my 4G USB modem from SmarTone that are about twice as fast as I’d get with a landline from PCCW. (It seems that out here in the boonies SmarTone and China Mobile have the best coverage.)
The problem isn’t only villages – older buildings in Kowloon and on Hong Kong island also apparently aren’t wired with fiber optic. The story shows one business in a tenement where internet speeds are so slow that employees have to wait till they go home to upload or download business related files.
The story also makes a point that there are issues even with new buildings. Most of the telecom companies in Hong Kong are owned or partially owned by the real estate developers. So when they put up a new building, they make it easy for their own company to get in and throw up roadblocks for the competition. And this is legal.
They also state that the Office of the Telecommunications Authority says that HKT (owned by PCCW) is “obliged to provide basic services to everyone.” But apparently that obligation isn’t enforced. I live in a house that’s at least 3 years old that receives no basic services.
I have this crazy idea – the government should wire all the villages with fiber. The government should then offer equal access to all the telecom companies to this network and charge them access and usage fees. With every telecom having access to this network, there would be real competition, leading to lower prices and better service.
Is this idea really so insane? It must be. So far I’ve written to two Legco members and not received any response.