Cabinet okays RM21.6b plan to give Malaysians faster and better internet

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KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 28): The Cabinet today approved the implementation of the National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan (NFCP) over a five-year period from this year to 2023 at a cost of RM21.6 billion.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo said the NFCP will provide "nationwide digital connectivity that is robust, pervasive, high-quality and affordable" for all Malaysians.

He hopes it could help improve the living standards of the people and new business models to emerge, leading to more high-paying job opportunities and career prospects.

The NFCP's main targets include the provision of an average speed of 30 Mbps in 98% of populated areas and gigabits availability in selected industrial areas by the year 2020 and all state capitals by 2023, Gobind said in a statement.

"The government views NFCP as a crucial infrastructure project as well as a strategic effort to enhance the competitiveness of the country and the people of Malaysia in this digital age.

"In line with the government's objective to recognise access to the internet as a basic right, NFCP projects will ensure equal access to the internet for both urban and rural residents. The new digital infrastructure will also benefit those who may otherwise not have the opportunity to participate in the digital economy, for example, farmers, fishermen and the Orang Asli community," Gobind said.

On the RM21.6 billion cost, the minister said it will be funded through the provision of the Universal Service Provision (USP) Fund, regulated by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), and commercially by the service provider.

The methods of financing via the USP Fund that would be considered are in the form of full, matching, or partial fund to eligible parties.

"These financing methods will help reduce the expenditure of the service provider and the cost savings will benefit consumers through the provision of affordable services," the minister explained.

The RM21.6 billion cost will involve the infrastructure projects in targeted areas that are expected to provide a positive boost to the country's economy, especially to service providers, small contractors and suppliers.

"The NFCP focuses on fibre networks to enable greater digital connectivity.

"However, alternative technologies such as wireless networks and satellite technology will also be deployed wherever conducive. This is in line with the 'Shared Prosperity' initiative, in which rural areas will be able to enjoy high quality and high-speed broadband access," said Gobind.

He said besides state capitals, major cities and rural areas, the plan is expected enhance economic competitiveness of the country in high-impact industrial areas, mobile coverage areas without fibre network connection to telecommunication tower, as well as public areas such as schools, hospitals, libraries, police stations and post offices.

The Felda and indigenous communities, and sectors such as the small and medium enterprises, education, health and agriculture as well as major transport facilities, too, will stand to benefit from the NFCP.

"Among other things, Malaysians will be able to reap the benefits from digital education, e-health and e-sports services. The business community will stand to gain from e-commerce platforms, enabling them to penetrate new markets domestically and abroad," Gobind said.

He said a special task force chaired by the ministry and comprising related agencies will be set up to coordinate the construction of digital infrastructure in schools, police stations, hospitals and libraries.

"The task force will ensure that the existing digital infrastructure is optimised, while reducing duplication and cost of building new digital infrastructure in these selected institutions. Where necessary, the special task force will deliberate on the need for the provision of infrastructure in other areas, including best practices available for implementation," he added.

Further details on the project will be released in mid-September.