Poe tells Dito: Roll out services in underserved areas

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Sen. Grace Poe has challenged third telco Dito Telecommunity to show their goodwill and commitment by providing service to unserved and underserved areas.

Sen. Grace Poe

“By strategically fulfilling its commitment to meet the said number of barangays mostly in the NCR area where it’s the easiest way to go about it, Dito is literally giving us the bare minimum of what it committed to do,” explained Poe.

Poe earlier enumerated the commitments Dito made to the government that will serve as a basis of its franchise renewal which will expire in 2023. These include their ability to provide service to 37 percent of the population with a minimum speed of 27 mbps by January 2021.

“Dito will actually do a test run and said they were able to cover thousands of barangays, so we would actually want to go to one of those barangays and see if there’s been a marked improvement in their connection,” said Poe.

“We can always see the numbers, but unless you’re actually the end user and experience how it performs, you can’t really vouch for it,” Poe said.

Upon winning the franchise bid in 2018, Dito submitted a form that includes a list of 7,425 barangays it has committed to serve in its first year of application. At the last Senate hearing, Poe questioned Dito for rolling out services mainly in the NCR instead of barangays in unserved and underserved areas.

“We are very excited for a third telco to come in, but we are here to safeguard the commitments it made to the government for the benefit of our people,” said Poe.

Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services, assured her panel will be fair in dealing with telecommunications providers seeking franchise to ensure that they deliver on their commitments for the benefit of the people.

“We want to make this transparent for the welfare of our people. We are not singling out anybody. In fact, we do this assessment also for the other telcos,” Poe said during the hearing for the franchise application of Dito Telecommunity.

Poe reiterated that she expects Dito to make good on its promises according to timeline as a prerequisite for the approval of its franchise.

“If we shall give the privilege of a franchise to a company that is promising to provide better service, we must hold it accountable to that, particularly now that connectivity is a necessity,” Poe said.

“Dito’s franchise will not expire until 2023, and before we grant that franchise, they must fulfill the commitments they’ve made which were supposed to have been delivered in July, but because of the pandemic, they sought and were given an extension until January next year, subject to a technical evaluation: They should provide a minimum standard of 27 mbps speed for internet connection; and should cover 37 percent of the population,” she said.

“So after they show that they are able to honor their commitments and provide for all of those, then that will be a basis for us to determine if they’re really eligible for another 25 years,” she said.

Poe earlier cited that her panel wanted to avoid situations where companies hold off on their rollout commitments as they anticipate to be granted fresh franchise.

Dito, formerly Mislatel, won the bidding to be the country’s third telco in 2018. Among its commitments were to provide a minimum average broadband speed of 27 mbps on its first year and make it faster at 55 mbps on its fifth year, when it should have covered 84 percent of the population.

Senators have also raised concerns on Dito’s partnership with China Telecoms, especially on account of China’s law requiring all its subjects to report to the Chinese government any information it asks of them.

“As of now the tone that they (Dito) have is that the initial deliverables will be met by January. Now, let’s see if that will happen. If they have that by January, it will be a good indication that their franchise will be approved,” Poe added.

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