Tue, Aug 28, 2007 - Page 2 News List

FEATURE: Man with a mission to deliver broadband

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Hsieh Chin-nan and a Tsou chief pose for a photo at a ceremony celebrating the launch of broadband services in Leechia Village, near Alishan, on Aug. 1.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE NCC

For National Communications Commission (NCC) member Hsieh Chin-nan (謝進男), the goal of delivering broadband Internet access to every village in Taiwan is the only reason for remaining in his job.

"I would have quit a long time ago if it wasn't for this [the service]," Hsieh told the Taipei Times.

His desire to execute such a challenging project started 32 years ago, when he landed a job as an assistant engineer at the radio waves department of the Directorate General of Telecommunications (DGT).

Hsieh was asked to help install pay phones for residents living in more than 300 remote villages. The order was given by the late premier Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) and had to be completed in two years, no matter what.

Hsieh was intimidated by the challenge. Carrying electronic equipment on his back, he hiked nearly all the meandering mountain roads in central and southern Taiwan and became familiar with some distinctive tribal cultures along the way.

He still remembers the day when the service finally became available to residents in Alishan's Shanmei Village (山美村), who previously had to travel 9km to make a 911 call.

"They were so happy that they couldn't wait to give you the best things they could offer," he said.

Hsieh later worked in the private sector for many years before securing the Taiwan Solidarity Union's (TSU) nomination to be an NCC member last year. In the meantime, the DGT was partially privatized in 1996 and was renamed Chunghwa Telecom.

The policy of offering broadband service nationwide was part of the Executive Yuan's "e-Taiwan" plan, which aims to have 99.6 percent of the nation covered by broadband next year.

Because of his previous experience, Hsieh was entrusted with the task.

He and another NCC member Lin Tung-tai (林東泰) first identified that 18 villages in Taiwan had no broadband service at all. They also found 28 villages that could only receive Internet at a transmission speed of 256 kilobites per second because of their distance from the nearest service station.

Hsieh and Lin went to these villages and attended meetings to hear about telecommunication issues from residents. For example, some complained that Chunghwa Telecom cut off services immediately if payments were missed, despite the fact that many residents have trouble traveling to the nearest service center to make payments.

Others living in remote regions said they had applied to have phones installed in their homes, but Chunghwa would only agree to do it if they were willing to pay an installation fee of more than NT$100,000.

Still others said they had been applying for ADSL services for years, but Chunghwa kept turning down their applications.

Faced with these problems, Hsieh believed that the way the Telecommunications Universal Service Fund (電信普及服務基金) was used must be changed before anything could be accomplished.

The fund was established in 2001 to prevent telecom service providers from overcharging customers if profits failed to cover costs.

By law, the fund is contributed by designated service providers.

In the past, the fund was supervised by the DGT and mainly used to subsidize companies such as Chunghwa Telecom for providing telecom services to Taiwan's outlying islands and other economically-challenged areas.

The DGT, in general, only provided subsidies at the request of telecom companies and tended not to initiate action.

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