Internet in the Philippines

Sen. Bam on the President’s invitation to China Telco players

Natutuwa tayo sa pagkilala ng Pangulo na kailangan nating pagandahin ang ating sektor ng telekomunikasyon sa pamamagitan ng kumpetisyon, subalit hindi tayo dapat malimita sa isang bansa lamang.

 Kung ang maliit na bansa gaya ng Singapore ay mayroong anim na players sa telco sector, dapat maging ganito rin kasigla ang kumpetisyon sa ating bansa.

Habang isinusulong natin noon ang Philippine Competition Act, nakatagpo tayo ng interes mula sa mga kumpanyang galing Japan at Korea na gustong pumasok sa ating industriya ng telco.

 Kahit ang maliliit nating local cable operators ay nais magsamasama upang makipagkumpitensya sa malalaking Telcos.

 Gawin nating madali para sa mga kumpanyang ito na makapasok sa merkado at tanggalin na ang red tape upang mapaganda ang serbisyo ng internet at bumaba ang presyo nito para sa mga Pilipino.

Bam: LGUs open to fast tracking permits for cell sites, IT infrastructure

Are you amenable to fast tracking permits for Internet infrastructure?

 Senator Bam Aquino threw this challenge to local government units (LGUs), which are being blamed for the slow and tedious issuing of permits to build the cell sites needed to improve internet quality in the country.

 “If we include provisions on fast tracking cell site construction, how would the LGUs feel about that?” Sen. Bam asked during the Senate hearing on proposal to grant President Duterte emergency powers to solve the worsening traffic problem in the country.

“If in the emergency powers bill, in an Executive Order, or in the Free Wi-Fi Bill, nakalagay doon na within one month, the cities must choose specific areas for cell site applications, would you be amenable?” Sen. Bam asked Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, Calamba City Mayor Justin Marc Chipeco and representatives from Manila and Pasay.

“Opo. In fact, we also want that dahil iyan ang hinihingi ng mga kababayan namin, magiging expeditious din ang mga proyekto at the same time, iyong access the communication mabilis din,” said Mayor Bautista.

 However, Bautista said they can only fast track the process for government-owned properties and not on private properties, such as subdivisions, which must go through the regular process of permit approval.

 “We fully support that proposal. Kaya po iyon,” said Manila City administrator Atty. Ericson Alcovendaz.

 “We support that initiative. Information Technology (IT) has a significant footprint on the solution [to traffic]. If we can make less people go out on the streets and work from home, so much the better,” stressed Pasay City administrator Dennis Acorda.

Chipeco, for his part, supports the proposal as he sees the need to improve Internet speed because it is a necessity, more than a luxury. 

In an earlier hearing conducted by Sen. Bam as chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and telecommunication companies complained about difficulty in acquiring permits from LGUS for their infrastructure development efforts.

Bam pushes for free Internet in all public schools

Believing that high-quality Internet is a crucial necessity in today’s learning environment, a senator wants to establish free Wi-Fi hotspots in all public schools to help students enhance their personal and academic development.

Sen. Bam Aquino’s Senate Bill No. 1050 seeks to establish an Internet Access Program in all public schools in the country, including State Universities and Colleges.

 “Teachers and students should be given access to the Internet for meaningful research, collaboration, and learning,” said Sen. Bam, chairman of the Committee on Education, Arts and Culture in the 17th Congress.

 Instead of discouraging Internet use at schools, Sen. Bam said students must be trained to engage with World Wide Web in a responsible way that furthers their personal and academic development

 Under the measure, the newly-established Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) will be tasked to ensure that all public schools provide reliable Internet connection to students, faculty members and other non-teaching personal.

 According to Sen. Bam, this Internet connection must be put up in publicly accessible areas on the premises.

 As chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship in the 16th Congress, Sen. Bam spearheaded the investigation into the slow and expensive Internet connection in the country.


Telcos must Declare Average Minimum Internet Speed on Ads – Sen. Bam

Instead of the ‘up to’ phrase, Senator Bam Aquino wants telecommunication companies to put average minimum Internet speed on all forms of advertisements so as not to mislead subscribers.

“We are pushing changes in advertising. It would be good for our consumers if what is communicated is clearer,” said Aquino, after the hearing of the Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship on the slow and expensive Internet connection in the country.

During the hearing, Aquino said part of the consumers’ dissatisfaction is that flyers and other advertisements claim speeds of up to between 5 to 10 Mbps but experience just the average when they subscribed.

“Why can’t we just advertise the average speed? The one that I will get for 24 hours of the day rather than the one that I will get three or four hours of the day,” Aquino asked.

“In the same way, we ask people selling products to just share the common experience rather than the special experience,” he added.

The senator also wants the average minimum speed to be printed in large fonts instead of fine print so consumers will be properly informed of what they are getting from Internet providers.

Department of Justice (DOJ) Assistant Secretary Geronimo Sy supported Aquino’s call, saying the agency did the same with the budget promo fares by airlines years ago.

“It’s a no-brainer for Telcos to actually adjust their advertising,” said Sy, head of the DOJ’s Office of Competition.

Sy also promised the committee to issue an advisory to Telcos to put average Internet speeds on their advertisements.

In addition, Aquino will push for the amendment of a 78-year-old law making Internet a basic service, giving government greater control over pricing and quality.

“We’ll push for the amendment of Public Service Act which is a 1936 law. We’re talking about the high-tech information age and we’re still using a 1936 law,” said Aquino.

Aquino also called on the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to check if indeed congestion is the main cause of slow Internet.

Aquino would also push for added budget for NTC for purchase of added equipment to monitor the Internet service in the country.

Transcript of Sen. Bam Aquino’s Interview after the Hearing on the Slow and Expensive Internet Connection

Q: Kumusta po ang inyong hearing?

A: Marami pang kailangang pag-usapan, to be frank. We just suspended the hearing but you can expect that in a few months, we will have another hearing on this because marami pang unresolved issues.


Changes in Advertising

We talked mostly about the problems today but I really want to talk about solutions. One I think iyong changes sa ating advertising, I think that would be quite good for our consumers na mas malinaw kung ano ang nakukuha nila pagdating sa Internet.


Pangalawa iyong pagdating sa congestion. We’ve instructed NTC to actually check if indeed congestion is the main problem kung bakit mabagal ang Internet.

Sabi ko nga, kung congestion ito na once in a blue moon, then maybe you can say ok at that particular time, mahina ang Internet. But if it a regular type of congestion, araw-araw mong nararanasan, that’s something that has to be addressed regularly.

Value-Added Service vs. Basic Service

Now, NTC has said na Internet natin is considered as a value-added service, hindi siya basic service meaning hindi siya makapagregulate nang todo-todo dahil hindi ito kasama sa basic services natin.

I think that can be one of the laws that could be amended na gawin nating basic service ang Internet. It is already recognized as a human right and if we make it a basic service, at least puwede talaga nating bantayan kung paano ito puwedeng maikalat sa maraming Pilipino, at the right cost and at the right service level.

Next Step: Technical Working Group

The TWG will probably tackle this more in detail. Hopefully aantabayanan po natin iyan kung paano gumalaw.

Kasi ang nagiging problema sa maraming hearing, nag-uusap-usap pero walang nangyayari.

Hindi natin iiwanan ang isyung ito.

Every quarter we can have this hearing and make sure that we get closer to affordable and quality Internet for our country.


Q: Puwede bang babaan ang charges sa Internet na mabagal?

A. Sa totoo lang, NTC cannot regulate even on that because it’s not a basic service.

It is a market driven system right now.  If we’re able to make Internet a basic service, it can one of the services which is regulated.

Alam naman natin na sa ating bansa, may mga regulators tayo, they can basically dictate the prices for certain services and if we’re able to make Internet a basic service, puwede nang gawin iyan. Puwede nang mag-regulate.


Q: Sir ano ang mga standards that you want to set?

A: In fact, in the Philippine Digital Strategy, nakalagay doon na by 2016, kailangang 80 percent na ng ating mga kababayan ang mayroong internet access and nasa minimum of 2 MPBS.

Mayroon na tayong standard na kailangang sundan. This Philippine Digital Strategy was made by DOST in 2010.

In fact, binabantayan natin kung umaabot tayo sa standards na iyon. According to the private sector and NTC, mukhang maaabot naman ang 80 percent access by 2016.

But iyong regularity of speed and iyong cost ang dapat bantayan, na dapat affordable pa rin ito at tuluy-tuloy at hindi dapat pawala-wala.


Q: Sino ba dapat magre-regulate? Dapat pa ba tayong mag-create ng regulator?

We have a regulator and that’s the NTC. So alam ninyo iyong isang na-reason kanina ay do we need new laws or just have NTC regulate.

In some cases, puwede na silang mag-regulate but in case of the Internet, na hindi considered as basic service, kailangan itong gawing basic service.


Q: Sir, how do we do that?

We’ll amend the Public Service Act, which is a 1936 law.

Isipin mo, we’re talking about high-tech information age and we’re still using a 1936 law.

So it’s about time that we update this law and we use those amendments to really push for better access, more affordable internet in the Philippines.


Q: This means powerless po ang government?

No that’s not right. In fact, we asked NTC to come up with standards for Internet. Initially, walang pa silang standard na sini-set because this is a value added service.


To respond lang sa hinaing ng maraming Pilipino, kahit iyong ibang senador may hinaing na rin sila, it’s just right that they come up with standards to check the infrastructure kung talagang kaya ng infrastructure natin ang pinapangakong speed ng ating Internet.

Kung hindi, pilitin natin ang private sector na ma-match ang standards na nakalay-out na at gagawin ng NTC.

Responsibility of Users

Iyong kabaligtad din dito I think, we must be responsible users of the Internet just to be fair. Earlier nga na-mention na iilang tao lang na heavy users, apektado ang lahat.

Kung 24/7 ka sa mobile, panay ang download mo, nakakaapekto sa mga kasama mo.


Q: Sir in your next hearing ano po ang tututukan ninyo?

A: First we’ll have a TWG. All of the resource speakers, the NTC, DOST, DTI and telco partners. We’ll invite the other ISPs. I think mahalaga rin dito ang ating local government units.


Puro Salita

Himayin natin ang discussion natin and come up with specific recommendations and from there, we’ll give it maybe two to three months to have another hearing para ma-track natin kung may nangyayari ba o wala.

Ang masakit kasi, puro salita at walang nangyayari. By the next hearing, after three months, we can check already, mayroon ba tayong solusyon na naihain o nagawa na o wala pa rin.


On Local Government Units

Iyon isa ring siguro na na-raise ay iyong sa local government units. Sinasabi ng ating telcos, hindi pare-pareho ang pagtrato sa kanila ng LGUs. There are some LGUs who will charge a really high amount, ang iba naman will charge less.

Nahihirapan sila (telcos) na i-roll out ang kanilang services. Kaya it’s important also to have the DILG, League of Cities and the League of Municipalities to have a common stand that when it comes to Internet and providing, kailangang tulung-tulong tayo rito.

On Congestion

Standards when it terms to congestion. At the minimum, they can actually show kung iyong infrastructure natin nagma-match sa population or Internet usage, para kung congestion nga ang problema, makita natin kung ano ang paraan kung anong ma-decongest natin.

Q: What’s the issue with Internet peering?

A: Well this is something NTC is already working on. We’ll ask for an update on the next hearing or during the TWG.

Ibig sabihih nito nagko-connect locally ang ating mga nodes. To be frank, maybe a technical answer might be better.



Simply put, kunyari galing akong Quezon City pupunta akong Makati, dadaan akong EDSA. Hindi na ako iikot sa Manila Bay, pupunta pa sa Cebu at babalik pa bago makarating sa Makati.

This makes the nodes faster. I think NTC is already working on this, and we’ll look for updates after three months on this issue.


Q. Kasama po ba ang mga text na pinapadala ng network na may promo sa resolusyon ninyo?

A: It’s not part of the resolution but we can add it.


Q: Kung minsan matutulog ka na lang may magtetext, akala ko importante.

A: I can have that checked. Pag nandoon na ang NTC puwede nating patanong iyon. But primarily kasi, the question is more on the expensive Internet.

Compared to other countries, medyo lumalayo na ang presyo. So we’re hoping kung ma-refer na siya sa aming committee today, we’re hoping to have the hearing next week.


Q: Hindi magkakalayo ang mga rates nila, so puwede ba nating sabihin na maaaring may cartel rin sila?

A: Hard to say that that’s a crime.


Fair Competition

But babalik din tayo diyan sa competition policy. That’s one of the bills we’re pushing for.  If you have better competition, you have more people in the market, mas competitive, mas bababa ang presyo.


Roadmap for Internet

Primarily gusto naming tanungin sa NTC, ano ang roadmap natin.

Technically, regulated industry iyan, NTC should have a roadmap in terms of the price and quality.

Unfortunately, napag-iwanan na tayo ng ibang mga bansa so we want to see. Antabayanan natin kung anong sasabihin nila.

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