Sunday, May 26, 2024

Gov’t mulls making broadband Internet as basic service

In order to exercise its power to regulate the telecommunications industry and consequently speed up the ?slow and expensive? Internet connection in the country, the government is proposing to reclassify Internet broadband as a basic service rather than a mere value-added service.

Sen. Bam Aquino at the Senate hearing on Tuesday
Sen. Bam Aquino at the Senate hearing on Tuesday

At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 16, Sen. Bam Aquino said making broadband a basic service will give the government wider latitude in setting minimum standards and parameters for pricing.

“Amend the law, make Internet as a basic service, and then have government to step in and regulate the sector, this is one extreme example,” Aquino said.

Unlike other basic services such as water and electricity, broadband is not subjected to heavy state regulation since it is merely categorized as value-added service under Republic Act 7925, or the “Public Telecommunications Policy Act of 1995.”

?If it becomes a basic service, then the government has all the powers to actually regulate it. Currently kasi, dahil commercial transaction ito, walang kapangyarihan ang gobyerno para mag-set ng presyo,? Aquino said, adding that IP peering may also be mandated if the amendment is approved.

But while the law has yet to be amended, Aquino, who chairs the Senate Committee on Trade and Commerce, said the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) is already preparing a circular that will set minimum standards — but not dictate pricing ? on broadband offerings.

“This is what we’re looking at in the next hearing, the [NTC] is coming up with a memorandum circular on the matter,” Aquino said

Aside from imposing a minimum speed, the NTC circular is also expected to contain provisions on broadband advertisements that will require the telcos to remove or clarify terms such as ?unlimited? or ?up to? with regard to speed and amount of data offered.

Earlier, Aquino filed Senate Resolution 620 which declared that the slow and expensive Internet connection is adversely affecting the ease of doing business in the Philippines.

Filipino consumers spend around P1,000 per month for Internet services with speed up to two megabits per second (Mbps) only.

?Comparing the prices of Internet services among Southeast Asian countries, the cost to Filipino consumers is more expensive than Internet costs in Singapore and Thailand, which have the fastest Internet connections globally,? Aquino said in his resolution.

According to the “Asean Average Internet Speed Index 2014” report, the Philippines is at the bottom of the list of Asean countries with 3.6 Mbps, way below the Asean average of 12.4 Mbps.

As for IP peering concerns, Aquino said NTC intends to bring in all the players to resolve the issue.

“Currently, it’s voluntary and other telcos are saying they’re okay with IP peering but hint that they will charge,” he said. “Right now, the NTC will try to bring all stakeholders together and hopefully, through these hearings and through meetings, they could agree if there will be charges, at least a rate that’s acceptable to all.” ? Tom Noda, with reports from PNA


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