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PH Internet at 19: From nerd territory to basic necessity

When the Philippines was connected to the Internet on March 29 nineteen years ago, the Internet was seen as a high-tech thing only computer nerds would understand and enjoy. It was also very expensive – it cost US$10,000 a month to lease a 64K line connecting to the United States.

Now an ordinary Filipino can share photos with hundreds of friends on Facebook, watch videos on YouTube, and get the latest news online for as low as P10 a day under the Smart network. Efforts of companies like Smart Communications, Inc. to bring down the cost of Internet use have contributed tremendously to its pervasiveness and dynamism in the country today. About half of Filipinos already have access to the Internet, with 30 million of them having a Facebook account and 10 million present on Twitter.

But nowadays it is not enough to have Internet access at home. People must be able to connect to the Internet wherever and whenever they want. This is why Smart has been offering affordable time- and volume-based data packages such as UnliSurf and Always On which allow subscribers to connect to the Internet using their mobile phone.

Smart also developed a mobile application called SmartNet which lets users access their Twitter and Facebook accounts, chat with friends online, and use Yahoo! services for free.

Smart’s mobile broadband solutions include the 3G High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) Smart Starter Plug-It, Smart Power Plug-It, and Smart Pocket WiFi which offer speeds of up to 7.2 Mbps. It also has the 4G HSPA+ Smart Rocket Plug-It and Smart Rocket WiFi, which are capable of speeds of up to 12 Mbps and 20 Mbps, respectively.

Now that the Internet is being used to transmit bigger and bigger volumes of information, improving speed is essential. In 1994, connection speeds in the Philippines crawled at 14.4 to 28.8 kilobits per second. Today, Filipinos can stay connected at blistering speeds of up to 42 Mbps through Smart LTE (Long Term Evolution), the first and widest LTE service in the country. LTE lets users download movies in minutes and participate in real-time gaming with no lag.

Indeed, the Internet has come a long way from being the turf of nerds and academics to being an indispensable tool in the daily life of Filipinos.

The group that hooked the Philippines up with the rest of the world in 1994 probably never thought Internet access would be considered a human right by the United Nations (UN), and that Internet usage would contribute significantly to Philippine economy.

In a report titled “The State of Broadband 2012: Achieving Digital Inclusion for All,” the UN agency Broadband Commission for Digital Development said mobile broadband usage accounted for 6.9 percent of the growth in Philippine gross domestic product (GDP) in the past decade.

“Mobile broadband made such a contribution to the country’s economy, even though only 3.4 percent of Filipinos had mobile Internet subscriptions in 2011. Imagine how significant its impact would be if we were able to improve mobile broadband penetration. This is why Smart continues to launch accessible, reliable, and state-of-the-art broadband products and services,” said Smart Chief Wireless Advisor Orlando Vea.

The Internet has improved leaps and bounds since it was introduced to the country 19 years ago. One can only imagine where it would be another two decades from now.

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