Give us affordable Internet but take away our freedom to use it


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Give us affordable Internet but take away our freedom to use it
By Zan Azlee

It was with great joy that the Ministry of Communication and Multimedia announced that there would be a reduction of 14% (mobile) and 57% (fixed) in broadband prices in Malaysia.

This happened after negotiations between the ministry and the Internet service providers in the country, and all it took was the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST).

So there is a silver lining to the new tax. What is says about the preparation of the government in implementing it and that they have had to make all kinds of fixes is a totally different story!

But as far as Internet users in Malaysia are concerned, and this includes me, this week is a good week. We have waited way too long for this day to come.

We have suffered exorbitant Internet fees for so long while so many of our neighbours, like Thailand and Singapore, have enjoyed cheap and competitive rates for much faster service.

There is the question of quality. But I don’t really see that as an issue. With about 70% Internet penetration rate, we’re doing okay infrastructurally, although it can still be improved.

What is more of a concern for me as an Internet user (and this would mean 70% of Malaysians) is the freedom of the Internet in our country.

The accessibility of the Internet has provided the lay person a platform to voice out their thoughts, ideas and opinions. It has allowed them to practise their right to free speech.

This in turn encourages and builds a thinking and intellectual society that is open to discussion and discourse. It can’t be denied that this is a positive development for the country.

The Internet has also provided the media and journalists a free and unintimidating platform to be the fourth estate that they are suppose to be and are rightfully responsible for.

This in turn encourages and builds a healthy democracy so that the public is well-informed and able to make valued decisions for themselves and their country.

However, with new laws such as The Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) and the amendment of old ones such as the Sedition Act, it seems that we are moving backwards.

What can be reported on, written about, discussed and debated is now vague and blurry. With any justification, anything can actually be considered a terrorist threat or deemed seditious.

The Internet, which has been the source of so much information and intellectual discourse, has now become something that, if we’re not careful in using, could get us into trouble.

It’s like laying out a tray of sweet and tasty candy in front of our faces, but all we’re allowed to do is admire how sweet and tasty it looks without being able to eat or taste it.

So we may have cheap Internet now, but using it might cost us more than we bargain for. We are made to realise it’s potential, but damn us if we are allowed to harness it.

[This article was published first at The Malaysian Insider]

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