Life can be difficult for broadband internet users in China. Speeds are increasing fast, but they’re still well below the international average, and many Chinese users live in residential communities that limit them to only one broadband provider. Now, new regulations announced by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) will mandate that residential communities with fiber-optic broadband cables must allow multiple telecom operators access to give residents a choice in all county-size and larger cities nationwide.
The new regulation is a reaction to a widespread form of corruption in which telecom operators pay the owners of a residential development for exclusive access to its residents. As someone who lived in one of those broadband monopoly communities when I was in Beijing, I can tell you firsthand that it sucked. Our connection was often slow or disconnected, but customer service was nearly impossible to get in touch with, and pretty unhelpful when you did finally get them to pick up the phone. We also were forced to pay more money for a slower connection than many other broadband users in Beijing, but we had no choice: there was only one broadband provider allowed to service our building.
This new MIIT regulation should rectify that. Interestingly, it also mandates that all new residential buildings in cities be built with fiber-optic broadband equipment. The fiber-optic technology, in combination with the speed hikes and price drops that should be the result of the increased competition between ISPs, should ultimately mean a much faster experience for Chinese broadband users. That’s a good thing, and it can’t come a moment too soon. MIIT’s regulation is scheduled to go into effect this April, so if nothing goes wrong between now and then, Chinese broadband users could start to see a little choice in their local ISP offerings this spring.