Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) senatorial candidate Win Gatchalian has opposed the planned free Wi-Fi service by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), citing the government’s bad record in handling technology projects.
Gatchalian, a majority member of the House committee on trade and industry, instead moved for increased competition in the telecom industry by inviting foreign firms to do business in the country as this will be the key to a faster Internet service.
“Actually, I don’t agree with DOST launching its free Wi-Fi. I think our government has a bad track record of managing technology. Technology moves very, very fast,” Gatchalian said in an interview with Karen Davila on ANC’s Headstart last week.
“And I think, for a national broadband network is the same thing. Every year, you have a new technology coming in and you don’t want government keep on buying that technology, you just outsource them,” added Gatchalian.
The government in 2007 signed with Chinese firm ZTE Corp. the botched $329-million National Broadband Network (NBN) deal, which sought to have a telecommunications network installed to link government offices nationwide. Then-Commission on Elections chair Benjamin Abalos allegedly brokered the deal and attempted to bribe ex-National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director general Romulo Neri in exchange of endorsing the contract.
Gatchalian pointed out that the government can instead outsource the broadband and Wi-Fi services “so it doesn’t have to worry upgrading and operating the new equipment. You just have to pay them.”
The Valenzuela City lawmaker, however, emphasized the need to have more players in the telecom industry when asked how Internet in the country can be made faster.
“Sa akin, increase competition. I think we should have one or two more players. We have to increase competition in telcos, a duopoly is not healthy in this industry,” said the three-term Valenzuela City mayor.
Diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp. is set to challenge existing telecom players this year, with or without Australia’s biggest telecom player Telstra Corp. Ltd.
Gatchalian previously berated the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for failing to test earlier the actual Internet speed that service providers give compared to what they advertise.
The lawmaker, who said the NTC should have done such testings a long time ago, recalled that the country ranked 176th out of 202 countries last year in terms of consumer download speeds, based on 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. (Monica Cantilero)