Communication services now essential public utility

In the modern world, communications and internet connection is essential.

Realising this, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah has convinced the Cabinet to classify communication services as an essential utility.

“The Cabinet meeting yesterday approved a memorandum of a proposed action to make communication services the third public utility under the application of the Communication Infrastructure Planning Guidelines,” said Saifuddin in a Zoom press conference.

“This is with immediate effect. This means that, unlike previously, we can go in at the same time as water and electricity utilities and find suitable spots for communication towers to be built.

“Previously, communication services only go in towards the end of a project, which means our options as to where we can put up the towers may be limited. Sometimes, the only suitable place left results in blind spots.”

He added the shift to the digital age has led to an increase in demand for communication services. As such, it is important to ensure that access to high-quality services is comprehensive. Solutions must be implemented quickly and at reasonable operating costs.

He hoped making communication a third public utility would provide high-quality communication networks that will add value and boost a state’s economic competitiveness.

States would not have to introduce a specific policy recognising communication services as a third public utility as it is outlined in the Communication Infrastructure Design Guidelines (GPP-I) under the provisions of the Uniform Building By-Laws 1984 (Amendment 2011) (UBBL).

“The National Council for Local Government had, on May 23, 2011, approved a proposed amendment to the UBBL to include communications as one of the essential services for certification of completion and compliance in a development.

“Only Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan have yet to gazette the amendment. They are working on doing so soon.”

Separately, Saifuddin said a National Postal and Courier Industry Laboratory (NPCIL) was held for three weeks towards the end of 2020 as industry and government agencies aimed to enhance postal and courier services to provide first-class services to consumers.

NPCIL has proposed a National Courier Acceleration Plan (Pakej) based on four pillars – reliability, reach, relevance and resilience.

Among others, Pakej would see the introduction of more collection centres and independent delivery, assets sharing between courier companies, a reshuffle of operating licence conditions, more economical delivery vehicles, notification and compliance with delivery period charters, as well as insurance offerings, and providing premium services.