Last Thursday saw Syarikat Jalur Lebar Nasional (Jalenas) signed a memorandum of understanding with its Swedish counterpart Metroverse Sdn Bhd, a move that will see it investing RM850mil over the next five years on high-speed broadband (HSBB) infrastructure.
Metroverse, the local partner and sole distributor for Swedish broadband management systems provider PacketFront AB is to develop the core component used by Jalenas in its networks.
For a company like Jalenas, it has to fork out its own money to stay in competition, without any assistance from the government, which from time to time shouts about 'helping the Bumiputra entrepreneurs' and introducing new business insentives and more grants to help develop them.
But for Jalenas, it was a sad story.
The MCMC refused to issue them with an operating license about five years ago, forcing Jalenas to buy the government's RM20,000 license for RM1.5 million from a non-Bumi company. And up till today, the MCMC threats the company as an alien and a 'pain in the ass'.
When Datuk Seri Najib launched Jalenas project in Kuantan (in his capacity as the Deputy Prime Minister) in early April 2008, he said the government should give more space to the new and upcoming companies, especially Bumiputra who venture into such a project.
As to whether Najib, as the PM now realise how much pain Jalenas has taken to sustain its business, the issue here is the government (as I see it) has been over-protecting some of its GLCs by not allowing any competition in similar business.
Telekom Malaysia, for instance, was given a development grant worth RM2.4 billion despite its subsidiary TMI incurred losses in its overseas operation, particularly in India and Sri Lanka.
Companies such as Jalenas and at least two more broadband solution entities which pose no competition to giant TM are neglected in terms of a fair deal, both by the government and its agencies like MCMC and TM itself.
With no grant to support and expand its operation, Jalenas which has spent about RM40 million from its own purse to complement TM services nationwide, was left choking. Worst was when a local bank linked to Najib's brother chose to back off from financing the business due to some pressure, both politically and from a royal family.
I don't care who runs Jalenas but I do care about the kind of business offered - to wire the whole nation by means of broadband application.
Sometimes its really beyond comprehension to note that while we work hard to attain a fully-developed status by the year 2020, we are not paying much attention to such a business. Compared to Singapore which is among the world's top 5 for full broadband penetration, Malaysia is still proud with its above-50 rank.
Politics aside, I believe Jalenas deserves recognition both from the Cabinet and Telekom Malaysia for taking such a drive.
The government should relax a bit the protection for its GLCs and give some rooms for companies like Jalenas to share a small piece of the business cake. Unless if the government wants to see the company and others go tumbling down just because there is no business to execute.
The MCMC should also review its stand in this matter. While it has issued many licenses to non-Bumi companies - for ISP, NSP or others - those at the helm of it must subscribe to a more positive attitude in dealing with businessmen.
If I am the minister in charge, I will try get at least RM200 million in the form of development grant for Jalenas, which is the only company offering an open access fibre-to-the-home technology broadband connectivity.
Taking into account the 61 per cent Internet access for the whole country as at today, Jalenas should be given more opportunity to work together with TM and other providers. Why must there be worries that they would eventually gulp up TM business?