KUALA LUMPUR: The communications and multimedia ministry (KKMM) hopes next year’s budget, which will be tabled on Friday, will announce internet connectivity as the third public utility after water and electricity.
Its minister Saifuddin Abdullah said the ministry was of the opinion that it was important for the budget to recognise internet connectivity as a public utility in this country.
“It doesn’t involve any funding because the funding is already there. But a policy statement that internet connectivity is considered as a public utility just like water and electricity is important.
“Because as far as KKMM is concerned, that will cut down waiting time in getting relevant approval from the local authorities. So, I hope that it will be in the (budget) speech,” he told reporters after visiting the media centre in Parliament here, today.
Saifuddin said the proposal on the matter had been submitted and discussed during the National Physical Planning Council meeting chaired by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, two weeks ago.
Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz will table the Budget 2021 in the Dewan Rakyat on Friday.
Meanwhile, a consumer group has called for the low broadband penetration rate in rural areas to be given due attention by the government in the budget.
Consumers Association of Kedah (CAKE) secretary Mohd Yusrizal Yusoff said that the rural community, including small traders, now relied heavily on the internet, especially to market their products.
“There are complaints from villagers about the difficulty in getting an internet connection to market their products widely in an effort to increase their income.
“For example, in the Padang Terap area, there are areas where internet speed is very slow. We know that some villagers produce and sell chips and ‘mengkuang’ mats, but unsatisfactory internet service has derailed their efforts to promote their products to a wider audience,” he told Bernama here today.
He said that due to the same problem, small traders in rural areas have a limited market, thus they are unable to generate better income.
He said that, in the current Covid-19 pandemic situation, good broadband service is a highly important basic need, not only in the business sector but also in other sectors including education.
“For example, most institutions of higher learning have taken the initiative to hold online classes or examinations. This move has posed difficulty for students living in low internet coverage areas.
“Students also need to obtain learning materials through the internet. CAKE sees that students living in low internet coverage areas are having problems in getting these materials,” he said.
In this regard, he asked the government to immediately address this situation by improving broadband infrastructure in rural areas and taking other initiatives that may help the community enjoy better internet facilities.