Was ‘smart city’ Hong Kong promise just talk? This Sai Kung village would think so

  • More than a year after the chief executive’s first policy address, no hopes of fibre optic internet service in “remote” village before 2021
PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 December, 2018, 11:04am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 December, 2018, 11:03am

In her 2017 policy address, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, as part of the “smart city” initiative, proposed that the government take “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”.

My village, Hoi Ha, in Sai Kung Country Park has – by modern standards – a slow, inconsistent and unreliable service, which makes it extremely difficult to run a business or organisation.

More than a year after the policy address, I recently contacted PCCW/HKT (our only internet provider) and they advised me that: “ … your residential address is not in our fibre network provision plan at this moment and a provision date cannot be promised”. In a subsequent email, having categorised my address as in a village, they stated: “Such a scenario prohibits swift provision of passive optical network (PON) service.”

It would appear that HKT has not heard of the chief executive’s promise to provide fibre optic internet to “remote” areas, and/or is not interested in any financial incentives to improve our internet service. In reply to my queries, the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau confirmed that Hoi Ha was one of the villages targeted by the scheme but does not envisage anything being done to improve our internet until at least 2021.

So, does this “smart city” initiative have any substance or was it a cheap PR exercise? Those of us in “remote” areas have a pressing need for a decent internet service now, not in three years’ time – particularly as we also have a lamentably poor mobile phone service.

Developed and developing countries are laying hundreds of kilometres of fibre optic cable, so as to provide all of their customers with a standard high-quality service. Hong Kong telecommunications companies have only to lay a few tens of kilometres of cable to cover the entire Special Administrative Region. What is happening here?

David Newbery, Hoi Ha village, Sai Kung