April 2006 Archives

Unsustainable subsidies

With price of crude oil hitting record highs of US$72-74 per barrel these past few days, its been revealed today that the RM$4.4billion Malaysia "saved" from the last major price hike of petrol (30sen per liter), has almost completely used up -- RM$3.5billion was needed to cover the petrol subsidies against the new high prices of petrol.

While the Government should be applauded for promising to keep the subsidies in place until the end of the year, the question has to be asked: at what cost? Nuclear tensions in Iran, petrol supply shortages in the US, decreasing output in secondary oil producers (including Malaysia) -- these are hardly short-term factors, and in fact, will only get steadily worse in the coming months. By winter in US and Europe, for example, where energy consumption is traditionally at an annual peak, it wouldn't surprise me to see prices of crude oil hovering at the US$80 per barrel mark.

Without subsidies, the current price of Malaysian petrol to the consumer will be approximately RM2.95 per liter (note, this un-subsidised price is set to increase over time), ~50% up from its current price of RM1.92 per liter. It goes without saying that at an unsubsidised price, a lot of things will change, the least of which will be the prices of many essential goods. A 50% hike in petrol prices will easily mean a 15-20% rise in price for any goods and energy that rely on petrol and energy for its manufactuing and/or transportation (which is virtually everything -- from your favourite teh tarik, to the humble cabbage in the market).

There is going to be a time very soon when the Government will no longer be able to subsidise petrol for its people -- the rate and quantum of crude oil price increases make any other scenario impossible. When it happens (not if), its, going to require some massive rethinking about how we lead our lives. It makes me wonder whether we should cut our losses now and give in to the inevitable -- the Government should take the money it would have otherwise spent on unsustainable subsidies and reinvest it quickly and urgently into measures that would brace the people against the ever-increasing price of oil. Things like a re-working of the public transport system, limiting fuel subsidies to critical industries, investment into alternative energy R&D.

Millions of ringgit are being spent each day to delay the unavoidable. To me, that does seem like a waste; we should let the invisible hand have its reign.


A real paradox where the solution is also the problem.

How do you tell someone who reacts very strongly against criticism that their problem is that they can't take criticism well, even of the most constructive and polite kind?

See the issue? By telling that person he can't accept criticism, in itself will be construed as a form of criticism.

Is there a solution to the paradox?

Is this gambling?

I've always thought that gambling refers to a game of chance; such games are haram in Islam, and rightly so.

But someone today told me that he thinks playing golf for money is also "gambling" and thus haram. For example, 4 people agree to play together, and to spice things up a bit, they all agree to put RM50 into a pool, winner take all. Surely, that's not gambling, is it? Its a game of skill, the RM50 is the "entry fee" and the RM200 that goes to the winner is the prize.

Playing games for money = gambling = haram? I think not.

Suffering from Streamyx

This picture tells a thousand words, perfectly describing how i feel about TMnet's service, Streamyx.

Whats frustrating is just that a few weeks ago, everything was working fine. Now things seem to have gone completely balls up. What happened??


Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get.

But just like a box of chocolates, life is not about the bitter bites, but about when the next sweet bite will come.

The hypocrisy of TM Net

What a lovely scene this is -- on Monday, March 13, Streamyx informs us:

To ensure uninterrupted service, it is always best to pay your tmnet streamyx bill on time as failure to do so could result in the suspension of your tmnet streamyx service. We also urge you to pay your Telekom Malaysia fixed line bill (used for the tmnet streamyx connection) on time to avoid service interruptions.

via TM Net Newsroom.

Then on Wednesday, April 5, Streamyx informs us:

TM Net Sdn Bhd would like to inform its customers that it is currently performing technical trials on its network system as part of the Company's efforts to continuously upgrade its products and services. Regretfully, the trial exercise may have resulted in some customers experiencing some slowness in downloading and/or surfing the Internet. We are fully aware of this and we would like to apologize for any inconvenience caused. Rest assured we have taken all the necessary steps to expedite the completion of the trial exercise.

via TM Net Newsroom.

They want us to pay our bills on time (warning us that they will "interrupt" our service if we don't pay), but they provide sub-standard service, and release a press release about the current connectivity problems weeks after the problem started appearing. Does this strike anyone else but me as being terribly hypocritical?

Where is the justice? Why can't the consumers "interrupt" our payment to TM Net for poor service?

The clause that protects TM Net lies in the contract we all signed when we applied for the service: connectivity is based on a "best effort" basis. But there is obviously something terribly wrong with the spirit of the law in this case.

If you sign up for a service which claims "best effort" delivery, it goes to assume that you accept the "risks" of the service (such as unscheduled "technical trials"). However, given that the industry of broadband access in Malaysia is a virtual monopoly, it is very poor form on the part of TM Net to be able to provide the sort of service it provides now and claim it to be its "best effort".

Natural monopolies are not necessarily a bad thing; it makes sense for certain industries to be monopolies in order to ensure cost efficiencies -- TNB invests a huge amount of resources into the laying of power cables, it makes no sense for another company to lay competing cables just for the sake of competition. The same can be said about TM Net and Telekom: the high cost of laying competing copper by another company makes absolutely no business sense, considering the relatively low broadband penetration rates in Malaysia.

But the consumer should receive protection from natural monopolies, just as we receive protection against any form for monopoly. If TM Net advertises 1MB/s connectivity for RM88 a month, it shouldn't be allowed to hide behind the shield of "best effort" and provide 5kb/s connectivity for 2 weeks or more without penalty; the difference between advertised performance and actual performance is just too large. If there are going to be forseeable or even potential service interruptions, the law shouldn't let TM Net get away with informing its customers more than 2 weeks after the fact.

I just can't help but speculate what TM Net is doing during these technical trials that are affecting its network; perhaps they are laying in place "speed bumps" to discourage P2P traffic (which, if true and not publicly disclosed, is arguably a gross violation of its terms of service with its customers). Whatever TM Net is doing, the fact they are performing trials on a live network, affecting paying customers on a daily basis for at least the last 2 weeks, is a very unfortunate decision. You would have thought a truly world-class company would have the ingenuity to perform testing on a test network first, and be assured of its success before migrating such trials to their live network. At the very least, it would have made far more sense to localize their trials if indeed they did require a live network to perform their testing.

Its become a popular pastime for Streamyx users to bash the service that we use only because alternative services are just too limited or too expensive. There seemed to be some hope when the new CEO came into office and spent some time engaging local Malaysian bloggers in dialogue. But since then, and up to the current troubles now, TM Net has yet to let action speak louder than words. If they had any business honour, or if this wasn't the virtual monopoly that it is, TM Net would offer all its Streamyx customers a 15-day rebate (or however long the current issue persists); this would serve to keep everyone happy, and also indicate that they are willing to own up to the lost of service to its customers during this down period.

This blog post has been forwarded to Mr Michael Lai, CEO, TM Net, the Editor of The Star, NST and Malaysiakini.

TMnet Alternatives: FLITE? ZED? EB?

There are a couple of broadband alternatives in the Klang Valley that you may want to explore if TMnet is down.

Jaring FLITE:

The old warhorse is still around, and their newly launched broadband Jaring FLITE service (wired and wireless) looks like and interesting option. RM79 for the 1MB/s wired package (basically an exact mirror of the TMnet RM88 package), and RM99 for the 1MB/s wireless package.

Upside: they picked up the phone when i called very quickly and was helpful in answering any question i had. Looks like their customer support is solid.
Downside: coverage is limited.


What's not very widely known is that Airzed has an active WiMAX package on offer for its customers. With a very long reach, its covers large patches of the Klang Valley, though it seems more concentrated on the high-density/middle class areas.

Upside: WiMax is very promixing technology, with the potential to completely webify the daily areas in which many of us lead our lives.
Downside: currently only available for Businesses at RM468 per month. When it becomes available for Home users, its slated for RM188 per month, on the high-end of the scale.


Don't know much about EB, and their website is definitely the least impressive of the 3; really looks like something a 1st year uni student threw together -- does not leave a positive image of the company. Uses wireless technology to offer access. MyConnect is for condos (limited number of condos), and MyWave is for landed properties (they will send a technician to your house to check on the service availability). MyWave is priced at RM99 for the 1MB/s upload/512kb/s download package, and MyConnect is priced at RM99 for the 1MB/s package.

Upside: not so well known player = fewer subscribers = faster speeds?
Downside: very limited coverage.

TMnet and Online Gaming

TMnet's current problems have caused a world of hurt to online gamers like myself. The following are my experiences.

I live in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, the online games i play most frequently are World of Warcraft (WoW) and Counter-Strike: Source. The latter hasn't been adversely effected by the latest problems with TMnet's QoS -- i normally connect to servers in Singapore to play and average latency is <80ms. The WoW server i connect to is located on the West Coast US, and prior to the problems starting approx. 2 weeks ago, i enjoyed playable latency rates of 300-600ms. The best latency numbers i see now are 2000ms, regularly spiking to 4000-6000ms thus making the game unplayable.

There is nothing wrong with my equipment, if there were, i would probably be suffering with my Counter-Strike:Source play too, but that's been fine. There is something very wrong with TMnet's international links (i've also noticed a general slowdown when surfing my favourite soccer websites), in my case, its links with the US.

I have no idea what TMnet is doing to resolve the issue; calls to the TMnet Call Center at 1-300-88-9515 have been met with the busy tone today. Could the problem be intentional via the alleged traffic shaping (surely, TMnet can't do this without some sort of official notification -- it makes no exception in its Terms & Conditions against P2P downloading)? Could the problem be a hardware issue, and its just a matter of waiting several more days before the technicians clear it up? Most customers are probably like myself: all we ask for is a current word on the situation and what's being done to clear it up; its all about managing the customer's expectations, and that's an area which TMnet is handling particularly poorly right now.

Its really sad that the best source of information about TMnet's current issues is a privately owned blog, with next-to-nothing being published on its own corporate website. Its a further shame that TMnet advertises its service as a means to better enjoy online gaming (which is a very healthy and inexpensive form of personal entertainment), but its current woes make it impossible.


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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2006 is the previous archive.

May 2006 is the next archive.

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