Broadband Unity Package helps bridge digital divide among Malaysians

The Broadband Unity Package introduced by the Ministry of Communications and Digital can help bridge the digital divide among Malaysians, said  Malaysian Press Institute (MPI) chief executive officer Datuk Dr Chamil Wariya.

He said it was a good initiative and would be a more effective one if the package was not limited to the B40 group, veterans, people with disabilities (PwDs) and senior citizens only, but also for the M40.

The package, he said, was also needed by the M40 because it will help reduce their cost of living when using Internet facilities, which is also a much-needed utility.

“The Broadband Unity Package needs to be open to all because broadband costs are still high compared to other countries in the region,” he told Bernama.

On the package contract criteria, Chamil said the two-year or 24-month contract to be offered to them should be introduced in a more flexible form and the subscribers are given the facility to terminate the contract if they cannot afford it.

He said subscribers may be able to afford it at first, but may have problems and cannot afford it later.

As such, subscribers should be given the privilege and freedom to terminate the contract without incurring any penalty, he added.

 Chamil also suggested that the price of the package be lowered to RM50 per month compared to the current rate of RM69.

Sharing Chamil’s opinion to bring down the package price to the affordable range is National Tech Association of Malaysia (Pikom) chairman Ong Chin Seong who said that various studies had shown that the average internet cost in Malaysia was still high than some of its regional peers.  

“The sweet spot for entry-level internet connectivity at RM50 would be a boon for most Malaysians,” said Ong. 

Meanwhile, a senior lecturer at the School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia Dr Azmil Mohd Tayeb said RM50 per month is a good round number and would be fairer for the targeted groups as times are hard these days.

He said the disadvantaged groups would be the ones feeling the pinch, adding that the government should complement the cheaper broadband rate with some form of targeted subsidy, for instance, B40 families with school-aged children.

“The government can roll out with RM69 for now and gauge the response of target groups. If the response is tepid then it can lower the rate to RM50 or complement the initial rate with a targeted subsidy. Government and service providers also need to ramp up efforts to develop and expand coverage in rural areas including Sabah and Sarawak, so more people can take advantage of this programme,” said Azmil.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Association for the Blind, chief executive officer Datuk George Thomas said the package is a great initiative to lure users who need to be economically viable as the current way of life for livelihood and knowledge.

“This is the way forward – leaving no one out,” he added.

Earlier, Minister of Communications and Digital Fahmi Fadzil announced the package which is targeted for the B40, veterans, Persons with disabilities (PwD) as well as senior citizens group.

Experts lauded it as a worthy programme and a pivotal government effort in narrowing the digital divide between those who are equipped digitally and those who are not.

The package entails unlimited data quota with broadband speed of as much as 30 Mbps, at only RM69 per month and shall be offered beginning March with a 24-month subscription contract.

According to a statement from the ministry, the price of the package is 22 percent cheaper than the current price of the package with the same specifications which is about RM89, of which subscribers can enjoy savings of RM480 ​​throughout the contract period. —BERNAMA