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Gov't urged to remedy slow PHL Internet; PLDT put to task


The Philippine government has been called upon to intervene in the sorry state of Philippine Internet infrastructure, with calls for public regulation of local Internet service providers (ISPs)—particularly local telco giant PLDT.
 
A Senate hearing spearheaded by Sen. Bam Aquino on Tuesday, September 16, looked into the possible causes of, and solutions for, the country's deplorable Internet speeds.
 
 
Internet as a basic service
 
One idea that floated during the hearing was a move to amend Republic Act 7925 to declare Internet access a basic service instead of a value-added one. 
 
This would essentially make Internet access a basic service, with the government tasked to regulate it.

However, DOJ Assistant Secretary Geronimo Sy said that the NTC can declare Internet connectivity as a basic service on its own, without having to amend RA 7925. According to Engineer Pierre Galla from Democracy.Net.PH, "it was clear to the body that the NTC nonetheless has the mandate to measure and monitor the quality of service delivered by the service providers."
 
 
Another provision in RA 7925 states that an Internet service provider is required to secure a franchise from Congress as part of the application process for a license. Compounded with the right of stakeholders—including existing telcos—to oppose applications, the provision hinders potential newcomers to the field.
 
PLDT vs. IP peering?
 
Another point that was raised during the hearing was the issue of IP peering. Connecting to local Internet exchange points allows for the faster flow of local traffic among local ISPs. In the Philippines, majority of the ISPs, with the exception of PLDT, are connected to the Philippine Open Internet Exchange.
 
According to independent telecom/ICT policy researcher Grace Mirandilla-Santos, PLDT took a hard stance against multilateral, open IP peering. She quoted PLDT spokesperson Ray Espinosa as saying that those who complain about slow Internet speeds are those who abuse the service.

Espinosa cited Philippine Chamber of Telecommunications Operators (PCTO) statistics, showing that 5% to 7% of abusive users take up 80% of the available bandwidth. However, Galla pointed out that this claim was made back in 2010, with no supporting data to back it up.
 
Misleading advertisements
 
During the hearing, DTI Undersecretary Victorio Mario Dimagiba also pointed out that telco companies only mention maximum Internet speeds in their advertisements, but do not talk about the minimum speeds that consumers could possibly experience.
 
"We should advertise what is our assured speed and people should be paying on the assured speed and not based on ‘up to’," Senator Aquino told reporters after the hearing.
 
"DOJ is also coming out with a memorandum circular stating na iyong advertisements ng ating telcos, kailangan ding mas malinaw para sa mamamayan natin," he added.
 
The Senate hearing was cut short due to time constraits, but another hearing will be scheduled to discuss the matter further. 

Democracy.Net.PH was unable to present its recommendations for the improvement of NTC MO 07-07-2100 ("Minimum Speed of Broadband Connections"), which is the current memorandum order in effect over public Internet subscriptions.
 
"Kung maganda ang serbisyo natin, we wouldn’t be having this hearing. Hindi pa mapag-uusapan na gawing basic service ang Internet," Sen. Aquino concluded. — TJD, GMA News
 
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