Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) senatorial candidate Win Gatchalian moved for the lifting of foreign ownership caps to entice more telephone companies (telcos) to invest in the country following the failure of local Internet service providers (ISPs) to actually deliver 100 percent of the internet speed promised to subscribers.
“We need to boost competition by opening our gates to foreign companies so the current duopoly will be broken. When there are more telcos, the existing local players will be forced to improve their services in order to compete. At the end of the day, Internet and other services improve and the consumers win,” said Gatchalian, a majority member of the House Committee on Trade and Industry.
Gatchalian made the suggestion as the initial results of the random Internet speed testing by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on Thursday showed that none of the ISPs complied with the Internet download speed they advertised.
Globe Telecom, Inc. was found to only provide 82.44 percent of the Internet download speed it promised, while the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) only delivered speed at 74.73 percent, Sky Broadband at 63.6 percent, and Bayan Telecommunications, Inc. (Bayantel) at 59.17 percent.
The Valenzuela City lawmaker also urged the upcoming Congress to review and amend the Public Services Act of 1936, which provides very low penalties. Violating firms will be issued a verbal warning for the first offense, but for the succeeding offense, the penalty was set at a measly P200/day until compliance with the rules.
“The 17th Congress should prioritize proposed amendments to our Constitution’s economic provisions in order to stimulate competition. It should also immediately study amendments to our antiquated law on public services, whose penalties can already be deemed toothless,” said Gatchalian.
Last year, the NTC penned Memorandum Circular No. 07-08-2015, which sets the definition of broadband as “data connection speed of at least 256 kbps” following the standard of the International Telecommunications Union.
“Under the new circular, we will monitor ISPs if they are providing broadband services with at least 256 kbps; if not, they will be penalized. Consumers will be informed of the results,” Rappler quoted National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) Director Edgardo Cabarios as saying.
The speed is comparable to “surfing on dial-up in the 90s” according to ISP lobbyists but Cabarios said there will be no ISPs offering broadband anymore if the requirement is set higher.
State-run think-tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), meanwhile, said: “The Public Telecommunications Policy Act of the Philippines (Republic Act No. 7925) does not have penal provisions. Thus, the NTC only used penalties from an 80-year-old law, the Public Services Act of 1936 (Commonwealth Act 146), which set fines at not more than P200 per day until the violation was corrected.
Gatchalian previously berated the NTC for failing to test earlier the actual Internet speed that service providers give compared to what they advertise.
“The NTC should have done such testings a long time ago,” said Gatchalian, who recalled that the country ranked 176th out of 202 countries last year in terms of consumer download speeds showed in the Ookla Household Download Index.
The cost per Mbps in the Philippines was also one of the most expensive with an average value of $18.18. To compare, the global average is $5.21. The value is the median monthly cost in US dollars per Mbps.
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