ID cards needed to buy telephone service
The government plans to ask people to present their ID cards when they apply for fixed-line telephone services or buy wireless Internet cards.
The move comes after the country launched its real-name registration system for mobile phone users about three years ago.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology published a draft proposal asking telecom operators to collect ID information from customers buying fixed-line phones or Web cards.
"This measure is to protect the legitimate rights of both telecom service subscribers and providers, and to safeguard the security of network information," the ministry said in the draft proposal.
The ministry released the document on its website on Thursday and is seeking public opinions until May 15.
In September 2010, the ministry implemented a rule asking mobile phone users to provide ID information when buying a new phone number.
The move aimed to "curb the global scourge of spam, pornographic messages and fraud on cellular phones", the ministry's spokesman Wang Lijian said at the time.
But the mobile phone real-name registration system didn't go as planned. Chinese customers can still buy phone numbers without showing their ID cards in some places such as newspaper stands, cellphone repair stores and consumer electronics stores.
"We want to fully implement the real-name system, because it's good for us in marketing terms if we have more information about our customers, like their ages and professions," said Li Yun, an employee at China Telecom's Beijing branch.
"It's quite hard for Chinese telecom carriers to effectively achieve the registration goal," said Yang Haifeng, a Beijing-based telecom industry insider, adding that they are not able to effectively supervise the millions of mobile phone stores across the country.
Among China's 1.13 billion mobile phone owners, four out of 10 did not register their ID information, according to Chen Jinqiao, deputy chief engineer at the China Academy of Telecommunication Research. The number of China's fixed-line phone subscribers has been steadily declining in recent years as cellphones become increasingly popular.
"It's necessary for China to implement the real-name registration system because of telecom crimes and fraud," said Hu Yanping, general manager of the Data Center of China Internet.
"On the other hand, the real-name system will guarantee the interests of both users and telecom operators and lower transaction costs."