Our Broadband Performance is a Mockery

Internet is an essential utility in this information age. How can Malaysia aspire to achieve developed status when our broadband Internet speeds seem to be grinding to a halt half the time?

In Georgetown, Penang, from 27 April to 6 May, Streamyx was running around 5% of the advertised speed. For the 4Mbps package the speed dropped to around 100 to 200 Kbps and for the IMbps package the speed dropped to 60Kbps. That was as bad as using a dial-up Internet connection. Currently the speed has gone up to near maximum but is very unstable.

This is not the first time that we experienced such poor service from TMNet over a prolonged period. Between March and June of 2013 the speed was down to about 30% to 50% most of the time.

Under such conditions nothing useful can be done on the Internet. Business organizations, research centres and universities download and upload very large files on a regular basis. Their ability to collaborate with other centres overseas will be hampered severely unless they have reliable high-speed Internet.

Most people find it convenient to book airline tickets online and do Web check-in. The government also has been advocating e-government and Internet banking. Use of cheques is being discouraged with higher service charges to be imposed from next year. However, subscribers take enormous risks when carrying out such transactions while the Internet speed is either very low or unstable.

Subscribers should be provided speeds of at least 80% of the advertised package speed for at least 90% of the time, otherwise they deserve to be given rebates. Telcos should not bush off their poor service under the so called “best effort” euphemism. After all, broadband packages other than entry-level packages are not cheap in Malaysia, even though there is a choice of a few telcos. They offer package speeds from 256Kbps up to 30Mpbs.

Telemarketers for TMNet are nudging subscribers to upgrade their Streamyx packages to higher speeds. If the subscribers using current package find it unsatisfactory, why should they opt for packages with higher speeds and pay more? What is the guarantee that the service will be better under the new package? An explanation is needed from TMNet.

Therefore, it is the responsibility of the government and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Corporation to ensure that telcos provide reasonable and stable broadband speeds. Nobody should feel shortchanged and should be able carry out their online transactions confidently and safely.

Letter to the Editor, 15 May 2014