Risking their lives for better link

Two boys seen sitting on the top of the water tank tower at Kampung Serabang to get better Internet connection.

KUCHING: Teenagers in rural villages deprived of good telecommunication services are risking their lives to stay connected.

Social activist Datuk Wan Abdillah Edruce lamented that the signal was so bad as if nothing was being done by the telecommunication (telco) companies and tower owners, despite repeated complaints by the public or their elected representatives.

“It is very sad that almost everywhere I go in the rural areas, there is no Internet service. If there is any signal, it will be for ‘hello–hello’ services only – for people to make phone calls, not going online,” said Wan Abdillah.

To prove his point, he supplied The Borneo Post with a photo of youngsters having to climb a water tank tower in Kampung Serabang near Spaoh to obtain Internet signal that they badly needed.

“Without the Internet service, the rural communities here are deprived of many opportunities, especially doing business online like other communities in other parts of Sarawak who are blessed with good connectivity,” he said.

To add insult to injury, the telco services are usually disrupted whenever there is a power outage.

“They don’t have any backup power supply. Whenever there is blackout, there would be no service at all,” added Wan Abdillah.

The reality on the ground is very worrying, although the state government has repeatedly announced huge budgets to boost Internet services in rural areas.

Admitting that such effort would require time, Wan Abdillah found it difficult to comprehend why the service providers seemed to be not showing any interest at all to help the rural folk.

“I don’t know how these companies work – is it by the size of population, by number of users, or what? There are certain areas requesting (connectivity) but the companies have not responded – they give absurd reasons such as people refusing to rent their land for towers, charging exorbitantly. Please don’t tell me there’s no option to that.

“I think the telcos should work with the Chief Minister on his vision for digital economy, and stop waiting.

“Of course, the CM (Chief Minister) has announced RM1 billion for Internet infrastructure; they can contribute proactively because they are making millions from the businesses in Sarawak. It is time for them to give back to the rural society. It is very sad to see the signal is still GSM (in the 4G era),” stressed Wan Abdillah.

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