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Installation of telecommunication transmitting devices in schools for commercial purposes

LEGCO QUESTION No. 15(WRITTEN REPLY)


Date of Meeting: 8 November 2000



Asked by : Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong

Replied by : SEM

Question :

It has been reported that a number of schools have signed contracts with a telecommunication company to allow it to install radio transmitters for telecommunication services on the rooftops of the schools for commercial purposes, and this may be in breach of the land lease conditions of the schools concerned. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether:

  1. it has investigated if such acts of the telecommunication company and the school authorities concerned have breached the law; if they have breached the law, of the details, and how it will assist the school authorities to adopt remedial measures;

  2. the proposals for installing telecommunication facilities on the rooftops of schools are subject to the prior approval of relevant government departments; if so, of the approving departments and procedure; and

  3. the Education Department will consider representing the schools concerned to negotiate, on a collective bargaining basis, with the telecommunication companies in respect of the installation of telecommunication facilities within the school areas, so as to get the most favourable contract terms for the schools?


Reply:

Madam President,

(a) & (b) At present, under the Telecommunications Ordinance (Cap 106), a telecommunication company needs to obtain a licence from the Office of Telecommunications Authority (OFTA) before it can install telecommunication devices. However, if the telecommunication device is of low power and of operating frequency within a prescribed limit such that no interference will be caused, a telecommunication company is exempted from applying for a licence from OFTA. In addition, if installing a telecommunication device involves any building structure alteration works, the owner of the premises has to seek prior approval from the Buildings Department (BD) under the Buildings Ordinance (Cap 123). According to the Education Department (ED), about 100 schools have entered into contracts with a telecommunication company allowing the company to install telecommunication devices on the rooftops of these schools. OFTA has examined the plan of the telecommunication company concerned and has confirmed that the company is in compliance with its licence requirements and the Telecommunications Ordinance. On the basis of information supplied by OFTA, BD has also confirmed that the schools concerned and the telecommunication devices installed comply with the Buildings Ordinance.

In general, school premises are allocated to school sponsoring bodies by ED, and there are no provisions in the allocation documents prohibiting telecommunication companies from installing telecommunication devices in schools for commercial purposes. However, there are some schools which have entered into leases with the Lands Department (Lands D). There are also some other schools which have tenancy agreements with the Housing Authority. The terms and conditions of these leases/tenancy agreements differ, and some may contain provisions prohibiting business activities (for example, installing a telecommunication device in the school premises which serves buildings other than the school concerned) to be carried out in school premises. Therefore, if schools want to allow telecommunication companies to install telecommunication devices for commercial purposes on their rooftops, they may need to follow their leases/tenancy agreements by seeking prior approval from relevant departments such as Lands D, ED or the Housing Department (HD), or to amend their leases/tenancy agreements. Some of the 100 schools mentioned above may not be in full compliance with the terms and conditions of their leases/tenancy agreements. In such cases, appropriate steps, such as amending the leases/tenancy agreements, may need to be taken. In this connection, ED has set up an inter-departmental working group, with representatives from Lands D, BD, HD and OFTA, to examine the situation of these schools individually. Where necessary, the working group will assist schools to meet the terms and conditions of the relevant leases/tenancy agreements.
c. Given the rapid development of modern communication technology and the varying needs of schools, we consider that schools should choose for themselves broadband service providers which best suit their own circumstances and needs. It is neither the most appropriate way nor in the best interest of schools for Government to select a service provider for all schools through central tendering or collective bargaining.

ED encourages schools to use broadband network to promote information technology in education. In this connection, the Department will issue guidelines to advise schools of areas which they should pay attention to when entering into service contracts with telecommunication companies. In addition, the Regional Support Section (RSS) of the Department will, from time to time, provide schools with the latest information on broadband services available in the market, and list out the offer prices of broadband service providers on the Department's website for schools' reference. Schools may also seek assistance and advice from RSS on the terms of service contracts offered by telecommunication companies.

If RSS has doubts on whether the service contracts are in compliance with the relevant ordinances/leases/tenancy agreements, the case will be referred to the working group mentioned above to see if any follow-up actions need to be taken.
Last revision date: 08 November 2000
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