Extra bandwidth charges unfair, expert says

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 January, 2007, 12:00am

'Firms should not have to pay more after damage to cables'

Businesses that require greater internet bandwidth as a result of damage to undersea cables by the Taiwanese earthquake should not be charged extra, said a founder of the Hong Kong Computer Society.

William Lee Wanbil, also a professor of computer science at the University of Hong Kong, likened the extra charge to 'stealing during a fire'.

'I don't think it's a clever thing to do,' he said of the charge internet service providers [ISPs] are levying for extra bandwidth to specific destinations. 'In these circumstances they should provide this service free of charge, if you ask me.'

Professor Lee also doubted whether there was enough internet traffic between Hong Kong and Taiwan businesses to warrant paying for extra bandwidth, even after the earthquake damage.

York Mok Sui-wah, chairman of the Hong Kong Internet Service Providers Association, said the charge for extra 'country-specific' bandwidth to Taiwan, for example, was already imposed by individual ISPs on companies that required it.

He said it was up to the company and the ISP to negotiate the extra monthly charge, although he was not aware of any cases resulting from the earthquake damage.

Mr Mok said companies involved in the online gaming business, for example, might have to pay for the extra bandwidth as this particular industry was very popular in Taiwan.

Asked about whether it was fair for ISPs to impose the charge when normal bandwidth had been affected by the earthquake, Mr Mok said that it was up to the individual ISP to decide.

Nevertheless, the effect on smaller businesses is not expected to be significant. Spencer Ma Wai-pong, small and medium-sized enterprises sector committee chairman of CPA Australia's Hong Kong and China division, said most of these companies tended to use other means, such as sending faxes or sending their business documents and correspondence during off-peak times, to avoid congestion or delays.

Mr Ma said there was no need to panic as companies were using other means, such as satellite, as a backup system when submarine cables were affected.

He said that using satellite was not an expensive alternative and was reliable.