CO-SPONSORSHIP SPEECH: An Act Promoting Open Access in Data Transmission, Providing Additional Powers to the National Telecommunications Commission, and for Other Purposes

CO-SPONSORSHIP SPEECH: An Act Promoting Open Access in Data Transmission, Providing Additional Powers to the National Telecommunications Commission, and for Other Purposes

Co-Sponsorship Speech

Senate Bill No. 1763/ Committee Report No. 306

An Act Promoting Open Access in Data Transmission,

Providing Additional Powers to the National Telecommunications Commission, and for Other Purposes

March 21, 2018 at 3 o’clock in the afternoon

Session Hall, Senate of the Philippines, Pasay City


Delivered by HON. WIN GATCHALIAN, Senator of the Republic:


Mr. President, esteemed colleagues, good afternoon to you all.

I am excited to be a co-author and co-sponsor of legislation that will allow Filipinos to take advantage of “the greatest information and communications revolution in human history.” The passage of the Open Access in Data Transmission Act will help narrow down the country’s digital divide, so that every Filipino everywhere will get the most out of the digital revolution.

Just this January, Hootsuite – a US-based social media management platform – released its work called Digital in 2018. It is a report on social media and digital trends around the world which found that the number of Internet users on the planet has now surpassed the 4-billion mark. This means that more than half of the world’s population is now online.

In the Philippines, it is reported that we now have 67 million Internet users out of a population of 105.7 million. That yields to a penetration rate of 63%.

Without oversimplifying the essence of the Open Access Model, please allow me, Mr. President, to explain in layman’s terms how a rather technical bill could make data cheaper and faster for this increasing number of 67 million Filipino Internet users.

There are two ways to connect to the Internet – One, through satellites; Two, through wires. Connecting to the internet through wired means requires the use of international submarine cables that connect the different countries. This segment is called the INTERNATIONAL GATEWAY.

When these submarine cables reach the Philippines, they need cable landing stations that will distribute the bandwidth coming from international connectivity through a segment called the CORE OR BACKBONE NETWORK. It is this nationwide backbone network that will connect the three major islands of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Then you have a MIDDLE MILE that will connect the backbone to the different provinces. This can be done through wireless means or fiber optic cables. Lastly, but most importantly, there is your LAST MILE which will deliver – literally to the fingertips of your end-users – all that bandwidth that you are getting from international connectivity.

One reason why data is not cheap in this country is  because data transmission through the Internet is governed by outdated laws and regulations – such as Republic Act No. 7925[1] – which were made for basic telecommunications services. In short, we are using a law, designed to apply to basic telecommunications services which operate as a vertically integrated single network, and we are applying it to the Internet – which thrives in a decentralized, distributed setting where services in different segments, especially in the LAST MILE, can be provided by different entities.

The result is our current telecommunications system where all segments of the networks are owned and operated by a single entity. As a further consequence, it has become very difficult for independent players, both local and foreign, to participate in the different segments due to a legal and regulatory environment that encourages single operators to own and maintain an entire network. This has ultimately resulted in our current situation where the infrastructure for data services could no longer cope with the demand shift from basic telco services to data services.

Mr. President, this legislation proposes that instead of a single entity owning the entire vertically integrated network, there should be an Open Access Model which will identify the various segments in the data infrastructure, and open up these segments to more and different players without requiring a congressional franchise­­­­­, or a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, or Provisional Authority from the National Telecommunications Commission. It will foster competition by opening up the different segments of the market to other players by breaking down regulatory barriers, lowering the cost of entry, and institutionalizing a technology-neutral policy framework based on openness, transparency, fairness, and a level playing field among service providers at any given segment of the market.

Mr. President and esteemed colleagues, this administration and the entire nation have long been waiting in anticipation for the entry of new players who will break the duopoly and finally give us the world-class telco services that we envy, and rave about, when we set foot in South Korea, Singapore or Japan, to name a few. This is one bill that gives enough space for that new player, to enter any segment of the data infrastructure, provide real competition, and give us the best value for our money.

In closing, Mr. President, allow me to thank the principal sponsor, Senator Bam Aquino, for his stewardship of this critical legislation.

Thank you, Mr. President.

[1] Otherwise known as “The Public Telecommunications Policy Act of the Philippines.”