PH Internet pioneer: Cost of data access must still go down

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As the country celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Internet in the Philippines, one of the persons responsible in making that milestone a reality said that while the cost of going online has gone down tremendously over the last two decades, the cost of data access should still go down in order for more Filipinos to have access to the Internet.

Benjie Tan
Benjie Tan

At the Cyberpress Forum on Thursday, March 27, low-key Internet pioneer Benjie Tan said that since data still rides or share resources with voice communication infrastructure, the cost of data access is still somewhat expensive for ordinary Filipinos.

?But compared with our countries, our data rates are now at par or even cheaper, said Tan in an interview during the event held at the New World Hotel in Makati City.

Tan is credited as the man who connected the country to the Internet on that fateful night of March 29, 1994 while serving as a technical engineer for ComNet, a reseller of Cisco routers and switches.

But, Tan clarified that he was only responsible for connecting the local school network Pilnet, now known as PHNet, to the Internet via leased line when he hooked up the University of San Carlos to the Pilnet during the ?International Email Conference? held in Cebu.

?At that time, anyone who had a modem can dial up an ISP like Sprint in the US and have a connection to the Internet,? Tan explained. ?The difference with what we did is that we connected Pilnet via a dedicated leased line provided by PLDT.?

Tan, who is now with Globe Telecoms, said the data access could still go down if the industry finds a way to deliver data separately from voice. A good model for that, he said, is TV White Space technology, which the government is pursuing.

?If you notice, our mobile infrastructure is structured to carry voice although it can also carry data. The same with DSL lines — data is still offered over copper wires meant to provide voice services,? he said.

At present, the prevailing monthly rate for unlimited data access is P1,000.

But, Tan said there?s still a way for most Filipinos now to gain access to cheap data access, especially those on pre-paid.

?Since most of are not using the Internet every single hour of every single day of the month, mobile users should take advantage of those bucket offerings that have unlimited data for just a day or some hours of the day,? he said.

Dr. William "Bill" Torres
Dr. William “Bill” Torres

Also present at the forum was Dr. William ?Bill? Torres, dubbed as the ?Father of the Philippine Internet? for his crucial role as director-general of the National Computer Center and later on as the force behind Mozcom, the country?s first commercial ISP (Internet service provider).

Asked to comment on how to further expand Internet access in the country, Torres said: “We need to develop apps that allow communities to share resources.”

For his part, Information and Communications Technology Office chief Louis Casambre said in a message that although the Philippines has benefited tremendously from the Internet, a lot of work still needs to be done.

?Twenty years of having the Internet has moved the economy in unprecedented Giga leaps and Giga bounds. Because of the Internet, the country?s talented workforce and other competitive advantages have shone through,? Casambre said in his message read by ICT office deputy executive director Monchito Ibrahim.

?Today, we are the world?s preferred site for IT-business process management or IT-BPM. We are the leaders, if not among the leaders, in the area of voice and other IT-BPM services such as software development, health information management, animation and game development.

?And unbeknownst to many, are in fact a significant player for the ?high-tech? knowledge outsourcing with activities in hardware and firmware design for many things we think of as ?Designed Abroad?, and this even goes down to integrated circuit design.

Casambre said IT-BPM is on its way to overtaking OFW remittances as the top contributor to the country?s GDP.

“By the end of the year, 900,000 Filipinos will no longer need to seek employment abroad but will instead enjoy the fruits of Internet technology by having high-paying jobs in their own country,” according to Casambre.

The government, he said, is undertaking efforts to narrow the ?Digital Divide? through projects such as TV White Space program whose pilot implementation in the country is the largest TV White Space deployment in Asia.

TV White Space refers to an ever increasing number of technologies that use the unused frequencies located between broadcast TV channels to provide wireless data connectivity and Internet connectivity.

?Our vision is to leverage this wasted national patrimony to reach the remote communities in the country and provide essential public services such as healthcare, education and all other government services.

According to DepEd?s 2013 figures, only 20 percent of its public elementary schools are located in areas with Internet Access and only 10 percent of public elementary schools have an Internet connection, said Casambre.

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