House ICT chief calls on Senate to pass Open Access bill

House ICT committee char Victor Yap (2nd District, Tarlac) has urged Senate to pass a bill that would promote competition in data transmission and telecommunications services.

House ICT committee chair Victor Yap

“The Open Access bill will improve the data transmission services in the country, which would make Internet here faster and better. This would help everyone — farmers will be able to market their products or look for new ways to increase their yields, students will have a vast treasure trove of information. The possibilities are endless,” said Yap.

The Open Access Bill, or House Bill No. 6557, passed on third reading by the House of Representatives and was transmitted to the Senate late in 2017. Its counterpart bill in the upper chamber, Senate Bill No. 1763, remains pending on second reading.

“The economy of a country is affected by how fast its Internet connectivity is, and our Internet is the slowest and most expensive in Southeast Asia. There’s much to be done to address this issue and the Open Access bill is a good start,” said Yap.

The proposed Open Access bill will allow third parties to use an existing network infrastructure for data transmission and grant the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) additional powers.

Under the current system, the NTC considers providing Internet as a Value-Added Service (VAS) and only requires Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to register as a VAS provider. While ISPs need not be a telecommunication company in order to offer such a service, as VAS providers they are not allowed to build and operate their own network. Instead, they must utilize a telco’s facility for their service.

“The limitations in our existing data network infrastructure caused the degradation and stifling of Internet and data services in the country. It has also strengthened the telco duopoly here,” he said.

As VAS providers, ISPs cannot offer service in any of the data segments except in the last mile, or to customers. In order to be allowed to operate an International Gateway Facility (IGF), backbone network, and middle mile, one needs to be a telco with a congressional franchise and NTC provisional authority.

“It’s important that we pass the Open Access bill since at this day and age, a country’s economy is dependent on the developments of its technological infrastructure,” he said.

The Open Access billis fundamental part of the National Broadband Plan (NBP), which seeks to provide necessary infrastructure to provide even far-flung areas in the country with Internet.

Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) acting secretary Eliseo M. Rio Jr. recently sought additional funding for the NBP, stating that it was the “missing link” that would bolster connectivity across the country.

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