Open competition advocates want local ISPs to have own networks

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The entry of new players in the local telecommunications industry will help improve the state of Internet in the country, according to Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos, lead convenor of civil society group Better Broadband Alliance.

Better Broadband Alliance lead convenor Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos during the PH Telecom Summit in March
Better Broadband Alliance lead convenor Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos during the PH Telecom Summit in March

?The Better Broadband Alliance seeks to promote an open market wherein small players such as community Internet service providers (ISPs) are allowed to operate and build their own networks. In the current market set-up, service providers need to connect to the network of the two major telcos in the country,? Mirandilla-Santos said in an interview with the Philippine News Agency.

Allowing community ISPs to operate their own networks, she said, would help in providing Internet access to remote areas in the country that are not easily accessed by major telcos.

Furthermore, the implementation of a policy allowing the use of alternative technologies such as allocation of unused television frequencies otherwise known as white spaces and satellite broadband would improve the quality of Internet in the country, she added.

?We need to allow democratic access to technology that would enable innovation and foster market dynamism,? Mirandilla-Santos said.

Reacting to a recent report of tech firm Akamai, Mirandilla-Santos noted that mobile Internet speed in the Philippines did not improve but actually dropped by 39% this quarter.

She said the Akamai report itself placed a footnote in its mobile Internet report, which points to the Philippines as the only country in Asia Pacific that did not meet the minimum requirement of 25,000 unique IPv4 addresses seen by Akamai.

“Since there is not enough data set, Akamai further notes that the data on Philippine mobile broadband is not included in the report for analysis, but for reference only,” she said.

“Looking at the table for mobile Internet speed, you’d notice that the speeds for the Philippines are erratic compared to the relatively steady improvements in other countries. And, based on experience, could we possibly claim that our mobile data is much faster than Singapore’s, Thailand’s, and Hong Kong’s?” Mirandilla-Santos asked.

She said Akamai itself mentioned in its report that in cases wherein mobile networks use proxies, “the measurement could be the speed between Akamai’s servers and those proxies, and not to the end users’ handsets. While Open Signal uses a different methodology, I wouldn’t compare or say that one is better than the other.”

She cited that the 20% improvement should be attributed to fixed Internet, based on the Akamai State of the Internet report.

The Philippines’ fixed Internet average speed is now at 5.5 Mbps, a ?20% improvement from last quarter, but is still the lowest in Asia Pacific.”

Indonesia and India, which used to be slower, had surpassed the Philippines few quarters ago.

“While there is improvement, we believe that we need policy and structural reforms that would enable Philippine Internet to improve further and give the consumers the service that they deserve,” she said.

Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) secretary Rodolfo Salalima earlier said the implementation of the national broadband plan would facilitate the entry of new competitors in the telco industry.

During the Philippine Telecoms Summit held in March this year, Salalima said an open competition would help ensure better service, greater coverage, and affordable pricing.

The entry of new players in the telco industry, he said, will improve the state of Internet in the country.

Salalima added that any local or foreign telcos which have the capability to establish mobile communication facilities that can provide quality service to the consumers are welcome.

?If any local franchisee wants to be the third or fourth operators of consequence in this country, bring in a foreign partner with the legal, technical and financial credibility and capacity to mount a credible and effective competition against the existing telcos,? Salalima said.

The DICT has prepared a draft executive order, to be signed by the President, that will fast-track the permitting process of local government units for additional cell sites within seven days.

It has also ordered the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to start its legal proceedings for the recovery of unused and unpaid mobile frequencies for reassignment to telco firms which they may use for public service after a recent audit of the NTC showed that a number of establishments have not been using or paying the required fees for their frequency spectrums.

The frequencies may be assigned on a ?show need? basis, which are enough for legitimate operators to improve the delivery of mobile services.

The Better Broadband Alliance is a coalition of citizens and stakeholders committed to supporting initiatives that bring better broadband services to the Philippines.

The alliance believes in 4As: broadband for anyone, anytime, anywhere, using any technology.

To date, the Better Broadband Alliance partners include civil society organizations, business groups, and small ICT players, namely, the Internet Society – Philippines Chapter,, Foundation for Media Alternatives, Molave Development Foundation, Inc., Beyond Access Philippines, National Library of the Philippines, WiFi Interactive Network (WIN), The American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, and ICT Davao, Inc. — Aerol B. Patena/PNA

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