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NTC scraps broadband cap proposal

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) released on Wednesday the latest draft of its Memorandum Order (MO) on Minimum Speed of Broadband Connections, but without a controversial clause that, if approved, would would have allowed telcos to place restrictions on how much information can be accessed by individual users on any given day. The most notable change between the latest revision, dated January 12, and the previous draft released last December was the removal of the following clause: "WHEREAS, it has been observed that few subscribers/users connect to the internet for unreasonably long period [sic] of time depriving other users from connecting to the internet; NOW, THEREFORE... Service providers may set the maximum volume of data allowed per subscriber/user per day." Even as the NTC removed the clause, the government agency also underscored an earlier directive for telcos to specify and commit to a minimum level of service: "Broadband service providers shall specify the minimum broadband/internet connection speed and service reliability and the service rates in their offers... (and) the service offers shall specify the service rates for a minimum broadband/internet connection speed and the service reliability," the revised MO said. The drastic revision comes in the wake of yesterday's public hearing at the NTC's headquarters in Quezon City, in which members of the public and consumer rights groups aired their concerns over the controversial broadband data cap. "The adoption of this (MO) will destroy social media in the Philippines and affect businesses," consumer rights group TXTPower's Tonyo Cruz had warned commissioners. Kabataan Partylist representative Mong Palatino also issued a statement yesterday, saying that "NTC’s draft memo is clearly anti-consumer and regressive. It tramples on the rights of the consumers to get what they pay for in terms of a reliable internet service." "By allowing telcos and internet service providers (ISPs) to limit internet speed and connection, NTC seemingly wants the whole nation to regress to an internet era that is much slower and highly unstable," Palatino explained. Even as early as December, when the MO draft containing the controversial clause was first released, it was already met with widespread criticism. International rights lawyer Romel Bagares warned that the clause violates consumers' basic right to information. "This is against consumers' interests, because you have people suffering from 'bill shock' as well as denying their right to information. Putting in caps would prevent people from sharing as well as receiving information," Bagares told GMANews.TV. The NTC is still waiting for reactions from telcos and the public concerning the latest revisions, and has also vowed to hold public consultations in the regions. "The NTC is still waiting for inputs from other parties and stakeholders and will be conducting regional consultations to give everyone concerned a chance to provide useful insights to improve internet service. The first of which will most likely be held in Baguio City. Dates and venues of the proposed regional consultations on the draft will be announced soon," said NTC public relations officer Paolo Arceo in a statement sent to GMANews.TV. Further public announcements can be found at the NTC website. You may contact the author via Twitter at @tjdimacali. — GMANews.TV