Stricter regulations must govern the use of public spectrum to compel telecommunication companies to improve public services, Senator Win Gatchalian said on Monday as he urged government to tighten the noose on monopoly players in the telecommunications industry.
During the second part of his sponsorship speech outlining key policy recommendations and legislative propositions culled from public hearings conducted by the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs on Proposed Senate Resolution No. 213, Gatchalian, chairman of the committee, said government must “close” the “digital divide” in the telecommunications industry “in order for everyone everywhere to get the most out of the digital revolution.”
Stressing that effective regulation is the ultimate solution to improve industry services, Gatchalian proposed that government impose clear service standards as a condition for telecommunication companies to continue using their allocated spectrum.
Gatchalian added that the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) should set specific durations for spectrum use to stop big companies Globe and Smart from further monopolizing the use of the spectrum.
“The dismal state of the telecommunications industry has never impelled the NTC to recall a single spectrum from the telcos. The very-slow-yet-very-expensive telecommunications services that every consumer has to put up with has never motivated the NTC to recall from the duopoly the spectrum that is not being used to efficiently and effectively meet public demand for telecommunications services,” he pointed out.
Gatchalian said the NTC has failed to effectively sanction the telecommunication companies despite their sloppy delivery of services because of the weak regulatory framework, particularly the absence of penal provisions in Republic Act 7925 (or the Public Telecommunications Policy Act of the Philippines) and the ineffective provisions of Commonwealth Act No. 146 (or the Public Service Act enacted in 1936), which only allowed the NTC to impose a fine of P200 per day of violation against erring firms.
The senator said this stresses the need to review RA 7925 to introduce reforms and arm the government with weapons to run after telco companies.
Also, Gatchalian proposed that the NTC be given fiscal autonomy and its commissioners a fixed term of office to enhance its independent cloak and stop its regulatory capture by industry stakeholders.
“It is time to give the NTC more teeth to better regulate the industry, as it is only with effective regulation that we can ensure that the profit orientation of the telcos is tempered by the welfare of the consumer,” Gatchalian stressed.