HK: PCCW’s faster broadband speed comes with risks

I just signed a new contract with PCCW’s Netvigator, Hong Kong’s dominant Internet service provider. I was offered a to upgrade my current 6MB broadband speed to something much faster with a minimal increase on monthly fees. But as I am already happy with my connection speed, I opted for a small upgrade and home wi-fi installation.

But for others, the need for more speed is necessary. With PCCW offering even faster high-speed broadband plans like the 300M service at HK$266 (US$34.11) per month, locking such deals to long-term contracts appears to be a hassle-free and no brainer option. To those who think 300M is not enough, 500M and 1000M are also available.

But wait, there’s a catch.

The advertised 300 megabyte plan will work only when a computer is connected directly to a modem provided by PCCW, thereby bypassing a firewall and exposing the computer to different sorts of worms and viruses. To address that risk, subscribers need to fork out an extra amount for the necessary security layer.

PCCW provides a router that allows several computers to access the internet on one account but this router can only reach speeds of 100 megabytes, one third of the plan. For consumers who are eager to test such ultra-fast broadband speeds, being told about such direct modem requirement (and accompanying risk) definitely dampens the excitement.

Such deceptive tactics may prompt sucbscribers to be more inquisitive and perhaps read the agreement’s fine print next time. But others took it a step further and lodged complaints with authorities. Last March, PCCW was fined HK$100,000 after the Office of the Telecommunications Authority found out that sales staff were involved in “misleading and deceptive conduct” while selling Internet and cable TV plans.

It is not the first time PCCW has encountered complaints from consumers. In fact, in the past 10 years it has been subjected to 24 investigations including misleading promotional materials (like that 300M offer) and deceptive sales methods.