By Hsieh Chun-lin and Kayleigh Madjar / Staff reporter, with staff writer
Talks are under way to expand Internet coverage in mountainous areas, Council of Indigenous Peoples Minister Icyang Parod said yesterday when questioned by legislators over the connectivity gap experienced by remote indigenous communities.
The minister was invited by the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee to give comments during its session deliberating a bill governing indigenous land and sea rights.
During the question-and-answer session, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Cheng Li-wun (鄭麗文) asked what the council intends to do to address connectivity challenges in remote indigenous communities.
At present, only 51.6 percent of indigenous villages in mountainous areas have Internet access, Cheng said, citing government data.
Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, the council has been promoting online learning programs, but more than 90 percent of students in remote areas encounter connectivity issues or have no Internet access, Cheng said.
He also cited a National Communications Commission survey as showing that some indigenous villages have 4G or 5G access, but none have fiber-optic Internet, making it impossible to provide broadband and therefore stable online instruction.
By contrast, indigenous communities in non-mountainous areas have 81.6 percent coverage, non-indigeneous villages have 87.3 percent coverage and mountainous villages in general have 75.7 percent coverage, he added.
“You are not wrong that this is a real problem,” Icyang said, adding that the council in recent years has been working to bring public Internet access to more communities as well as working with the Ministry of Education to connect more schools.
As for the east coast, it is working with nongovernmental groups, as well as local governments, to improve general coverage, he said.
The council is in talks with the future ministry of digital development, which is to be formally inaugurated in July, to address the disparity, he added.
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