The Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Edward Yau, replied to a question from Starry Lee in Legco yesterday, 29 November. The question and reply is of concern to many in the Sai Kung area, and we print the relevant sections in full below.
Question from Hon. Starry Lee
In the Policy Address she delivered recently, the Chief Executive has proposed that “the Government takes the lead to provide telecommunications companies with financial incentives in the form of subsidies to encourage the extension of fibre-based network to villages in remote locations. The plan will cover about 380 villages currently without high-speed broadband network coverage and is expected to benefit nearly 170 000 villagers” (the village fibre network plan). On the other hand, there are at present quite a number of tenement buildings in urban areas having access to fixed network broadband service (FNBS), which is provided by a single FNBS operator and has an Internet access speed of 8 Mbps only, but the operator concerned charges users in these tenement buildings, owing to a lack of competition, a service fee which doubles that other users are charged. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council of the details of the village fibre network plan, including the names of the villages involved, the estimated expenditure and the implementation timetable.
Answer from Mr Edward Yau:
At present, the progress of extending network coverage by fixed network operators (FNOs) to villages in remote locations in the New Territories and the outlying islands is slow and unsatisfactory due to the high costs of network installation and the small number of subscribers. In line with the “people-oriented” philosophy of the current-term Government, the Chief Executive proposed in the Policy Address that the Government would take the lead to provide FNOs with financial incentives in the form of subsidies to encourage the extension of fibre-based networks to villages in remote locations for provision of high speed broadband services to villagers.
The subsidy scheme will cover nine districts (including Islands, North, Sai Kung, Sha Tin, Tai Po, Tsuen Wan, Kwai Tsing, Tuen Mun and Yuen Long) targeting those villages which currently have access only to basic broadband services at a speed of 10 Mbps or below. The Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA) has already commenced preparatory work for the subsidy scheme, including requesting FNOs to provide information on their current network coverage, technical standards, network extension plans and the relevant network design, etc., with a view to assisting in the formulation of the details of the scheme (including finalising the list of villages to be covered by the scheme, requirements on the fibre-based networks and broadband services to be offered, form of subsidies and implementation timetable).
The scheme will be implemented through tender by district, and FNOs will be invited to submit bids for the tenders. Separately, FNOs receiving subsidies will be required to open up part of the newly installed underground facilities and fibre-based networks for other FNOs to use so as to introduce competition.
We plan to consult the relevant District Councils and the Panel on Information Technology and Broadcasting of the Legislative Council (LegCo) in the first half of 2018, and seek approval of the Finance Committee of the LegCo for the necessary funding for the scheme subsequently. Once the scheme is approved by the LegCo, tendering work by district will commence immediately to enable the villagers in relevant locations to enjoy high speed broadband services as early as possible.