Taking the PCCW

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 5.12.25 PM

Simon Parry invites Sai Kung residents to unleash their frustration on PCCW’s dropping broadband connection.

A Third World service at a First World price: that’s one of the more publishable verdicts from Sai Kung residents fed up with the costly but infuriatingly slow internet service provided by PCCW’s broadband arm HKT (slogan – Here To Serve).

While Hong Kong boasts some of the world’s fastest internet speeds with an average peak speed of 92.6 megabytes per second (Mbps), the swiftest you can hope to achieve in much of Sai Kung is around 6.8 Mbps with a maximum achievable speed of 8 Mbps.

Compare that to average peak internet speeds last year, reported by an Akamai State of the Internet report, of 50.6 Mbps in Thailand, 30.8 Mbps per in Sri Lanka, 21.3 Mbps in Vietnam, 20.3 Mbps in the Philippines and 17.5 Mbps in Indonesia and you’ll see why the Third World grumble rings true.

With only PCCW HKT offering internet in the area, the monthly price of being connected to the internet in Sai Kung at around $300 is as much if not higher than the rest of Hong Kong, where customers enjoy speeds of up to 100 Mbps, as well as a choice of service providers. So Sai Kungers are paying as much or more for a service that is at best 15 times slower.

Many customers are prepared to shell out more to hook up to high-speed fibre optic lines – but these are limited in availability and customers have to get their neighbours together to make it viable then pay five-figure sums to fund the connection before their first monthly bill.

Sai Kung Magazine took up the cudgels on behalf of its readers and got PCCW HKT officials to agree to a meeting. A day before, we invited comments and complaints through the popular Sai Kung Dirty Laundry and Sai Kung Marketplace Facebook forums.

The response was overwhelming. What follows is a tiny sample of scores of individual cases aired in 18 A4 pages of edited responses handed to PCCW HKT. (We decided to take the dossier in person rather than send it from Sai Kung by email, as reader reaction suggested it might be quicker).

“PCCW in Sai Kung run a monopoly on internet provision, and refuse to invest in decent infrastructure to provide for customers in the area. There are too few lines running to various villages which can leave people without any internet service completely. Even when there is provision, it is only to an extremely low speed – advertised at 8 Mbps compared to 100 Mbps in town. We end up being priced-gouged for a service very few Sai Kung residents would pay for if given a reasonable choice.” Prachish Chakravorty

“When I moved to Sai Kung, from a 1GB line to 8MB, I asked why my new substandard connection costs almost the same as my premium 1GB connection. PCCW’s answer was that they were trying to move people from low bandwidth packages to faster packages. 8MB is the fastest line (apparently) that is available here. So we’re paying a penalty for using a service that they have no alternative for.” Jonathan Fung

“I have to download scientific research papers for my work or download large files from my offices in the UK and it takes over an hour to download a typical report. This is so frustrating I have considered moving away from Sai Kung.” Nam Shan

“The Wi-Fi in our house in Ha Yeung Village is so slow we have to use 3G. I have even now bought a pocket Wi-Fi for my son to do his homework.” Fiona Overton

“The bandwidth is always incredibly low and nowhere near the 6-8 Mbps they quote. Nothing changes. There is a large expat and local community living in Sai Kung and Clearwater Bay that PCCW just does not seem to care about. We are supposedly in a First World territory and yet half the landmass of Hong Kong still does not have high-speed internet. As a telecom company they have a moral, if not legal obligation to supply a decent service to customers.” Adrian Mosse

“We have had eight years of hell. Someone said they had better Wi-Fi and TV connections when they lived in central Africa. Sadly, that sums up PCCW in a nutshell.” Marcia Brione Thomas

“We live at Seaview Villa in Chuk Yeung Road. There are 42 houses in our complex. To install fibre optics, PCCW is insisting that we fulfil a minimum number of sign-ups, each paying around $14,000. The problem is that lots of houses are on sale and not owner occupied affecting those who want faster internet connection.” Melanie Veronica

“Can (PCCW founder) Richard Li please stop buying expensive yachts and spend the money on investing in decent technology?” Fed-up PCCW HKT customer

Next month in Sai Kung Magazine: Defiant PCCW hits the ‘REPLY ALL’ button – how broadband officials responded to your complaints, and what they’ve done since.