NCC rejects offshore islands call rate proposal

The China Post news staff

The Cabinet-level National Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday turned down a poor proposal filed by Chunghwa Telecom Co., Ltd. to adjust the rates for phone calls between the main island of Taiwan and some offshore islands.

Under the proposal, Chunghwa Telecom plans to reduce the rates for phone calls dialed from the nation’s offshore or outlying islands such as Kinmen, Matsu, Penghu and Wuchiu, to the main island of Taiwan to the same level as local call rates, instead of long-distance call rates as charged now. But the telecom carrier will still apply long-distance call rates to calls dialed from Taiwan to the offshore islands.

The NCC rejected the proposal, mainly because the proposal violates a resolution made earlier by the Transportation Committee of the Legislative Yuan that phone calls between the main island and offshore islands should be regarded as local calls, instead of long-distance calls, regardless of the source location of the call.

NCC officials said yesterday that they will request to Chunghwa Telecom to come up with an amendment to the proposal as soon as possible, so that phone calls between Taiwan and offshore islands can be charged as local calls starting April 1 as originally scheduled.

Lawmakers have also resolved to request the NCC to have all the local telecom service providers enforce a single rate for calls dialed to or from Taiwan, Kinmen, Matsu or Penghu. In order to ease the impact of the request on local telecom firms, the NCC has decided to implement the legislative resolution in two stages.

In the first stage, calls dialed between Taiwan and offshore islands are to be regarded as local calls. In the second stage, all the calls among the offshore islands and those between Taiwan and offshore islands will be regarded as local calls subject to the same rate, according to NCC officials.

But local telecom carriers noted that the government should revise related telecom rules and regulations to legalize the uniform rate for all national calls, and that it will take time for them to carry out telecom system conversions and cable engineering jobs, which they said are quite costly.

In response, Su Jin-hsia, chairwoman of the Consumers’ Foundation, said that Chunghwa Telecom should be technically capable of converting its existing telecom systems and equipment to implement the uniform rate for all national calls.

Su said that if telecom firms want to hike local call rates after a uniform rate is enforced nationwide, the Consumers’ Foundation will categorically oppose such a move.

Former chairman Hsieh Tian-jen of the Consumers’ Foundation seconded Su’s remarks, saying that as Taiwan is quite small in space, it’s not necessary to divide the nation into several telecom areas subject to different call rates.

Hsieh called for the NCC to keep pressing local telecom firms, especially bellwether Chunghwa Telecom, to quickly make preparations for implementing a uniform rate for all national calls.