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Enough of "Pogi" points, sanction telcos for slow and expensive internet connection!

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"Libre po ang mangarap," reacts Ms. Gladys Regalado, Deputy National Coordinator of the Computer Professionals' Union (CPU) on yesterday's proposals in the Senate hearing on slow and expensive internet connection and on the Bilis Konek Bill of Senator Ralph Recto which would require telcos to provide a 20Mbps minimum bandwidth to internet users.

"Inquiries and bills that do not address the actual roots of the problem are only good for "pogi points". Without proposing concrete solutions these will not improve the state of frustrating internet services in the Philippines," exclaims Ms. Regalado.

In a study of CPU (http://bit.ly/1nNg844), there are three basic problems causing slow internet connection: inadequate telecommunications backbone nationwide, the last mile problem, and the miniscule international internet bandwidth. Expensive internet connection is primarily due to the monopoly existing in this industry and a government regulatory body that comes up with various excuses to cover up for its incompetence. "Unless NTC formulates and imposes strict requirements such that users can have fast, reliable and affordable internet connection, these telco monopolies will not be expected to initiate as such," said Ms. Regalado.

The Public Service Law of 1936 does not exempt Telecommunications companies under strict regulation of the government. "Access to the Internet is a telecommunication service and should be a public service," explains Ms. Regalado. Regulators are required by the Law to "fix and determine individual rates", "fix just and reasonable standards, classifications, regulations, practices, measurement, or service to be furnished, imposed, observed and followed" by any public service. Furthermore, regulators must require any public service provider "to establish, construct, maintain, and operate any reasonable extension of its existing facilities" such that set standards of service are met.

"NTC has been very "inutile" in protecting subscribers from the profiteering telcos, a perfect combination for expensive internet connection. We get dismal quality of service for high rates while telcos are free to collect a huge amounts of profit," said Ms. Regalado. Last year, telcos raked in Php 46.85B of revenue from about 5.13M internet subscribers.

According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the country's 2012 Information and Communication Index (IDI) is only 3.34 which ranks 99th out of 157 countries worldwide. South Korea has an IDI of 8.57 and the average worldwide IDI is 4.35. IDI measures the country's ICT readiness in terms of infrastructures for high speed internet connection, ICT skills and ICT readiness. Telcos in the Philippines were not able to build a reliable telecommunication backbone that is ready for the next generation high speed communications to connect all provinces. Currently, there are only 4 fixed lines for broadband internet for every 100 filipinos. An insignificant portion (1,172) of the more than 20,000 cellular base stations are capable of providing high speed mobile internet through LTE concentrated in profitable areas. International internet bandwidth allocated per user is only 14kbps.

"With this state of telecom infrastructure, how can telcos provide a minimum 20Mbps bandwidth to subscribers? Senator Recto and other internet savvy senators should first require that telco invests the bulk of their yearly profits to improve and build new infrastructure. Unfortunately, if we keep on relying on market forces this 20Mbps remains a dream. NTC should impose sanctions and even recommend voiding franchise licenses of telcos that do not follow its memorandums and regulations." recommends Ms. Regalado.

UN has declared that having an internet connection is now part of basic human rights and legislations similar to Brazil's "Civil Rights Framework for the Internet", which has strong provision on internet access, privacy, internet neutrality and active government role in regulation should be prioritized. "The BS Aquino Administration should immediately pass the Internet Freedom Bill of Senator Miriam Santiago, rather than pushing for band-aid legislation," ends Ms. Regalado.

Source: Computer Professionals' Union

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