Minor conflicts erupted at the legislature’s Transportation Committee yesterday after Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators questioned the National Communications Commission (NCC) over its policy of allowing telecom carriers from Taiwan and China to jointly build underwater communications cables.
While the lawmakers expressed concern that it would threaten national security by giving Chinese telecom carriers complete access to potentially confidential information, NCC and Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) officials defended the policy, saying that it would only increase costs to consumers if cross-strait communication had to be conducted via a third location.
The session started off with NCC Chairperson Su Herng (蘇蘅) scheduled to give a report on the construction of cross-strait telecommunication facilities and the possibility of merging Taiwan proper, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu into one big telecom service area.
After Su completed the presentation, DPP lawmakers proposed rescheduling the meeting for another time because no national security officials attended the meeting to brief the committee about their thoughts on cross-strait communication facilities. The meeting was temporarily suspended as the DPP legislators continued occupying the podiums.
DDP Legislator Lai Kun-cheng (賴坤成) then proposed ending the meeting, but Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Tsao Erh-chang (曹爾忠), who presided over the meeting, insisted the committee handle Lai’s request after Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Kao Charng (高長) gave his report.
The meeting eventually resumed after the two parties decided to postpone the discussions on the construction of the cross-strait telecommunication facilities and focus on the possibility of making Taiwan and other outlying islands one big service area instead. That would allow people to call from their home phones from any place in the country with one identical rate, without having to distinguish between local and long-distance calls.
The legislative committee voted in favor of two motions filed by the DPP and the KMT that the phone rate for Taiwan proper and the outlying islands must be uniform.
DPP legislators proposed that Taoyuan be included in the same pay scheme of local calls as Taipei within six months. KMT legislators requested outlying islands Kinmen, Matsu and Penghu be included in the same phone code as Taiwan proper by April 1 and enjoy the same phone fees as Taiwan proper within a year.
Saying the “uniform phone fees” scheme was complicated, Su said the commission decided to achieve the goal in a piecemeal manner.
Before the entire nation enjoys the same phone fees, the NCC will start with the outlying islands on a trial basis, Su said.
Chunghwa Telecom president Chang Shaio-tung (張曉東) said they estimated they would lose NT$3.581 billion (US$122.6 million) and the entire process was likely to take four to five years.
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