The National Telecommunications Commission has endorsed the passage of new legislation that would classify broadband access as a “basic service” so that suppliers may be compelled to provide rising Internet connection speeds under pain of harsh administrative fines.
“We express our wholehearted appreciation for the proposed amendments (to the law) contained in House Bill 5337, specifically in the areas of expanded responsibilities of the NTC, immunity from civil suit, reclassification of Internet/broadband as a basic service and specific rights for end users,” NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said in a position paper.
“The Commission enthusiastically supports the good intentions of the bill,” Cordoba said, referring to the proposed Act Expanding the Powers of the NTC and Classifying Internet Service, including Broadband Service, as a Basic Telecommunications Service.
Introduced by Makati City Rep. Luis Campos Jr., the bill offers a solution to the country’s persistently slow, inefficient and expensive Internet access by fully empowering the NTC to regulate the service.
At present, because the 22-year-old Philippine Public Telecommunications Policy Law treats Internet access as a “value-added service” rather than a basic service, suppliers are relatively free to provide services on their own terms.
HB 5337, however, redefines Internet access as “a basic telecommunications service within the jurisdiction and regulatory power of the NTC.”
Under the bill, the NTC may command telecommunications firms to deliver escalating Internet connection speeds within prescribed deadlines, or risk paying up to P100,000 in daily fines that could last up to 500 days, or reach up to ₱50 million, for every instance of non-compliance. The bill also grants the NTC and its officers immunity from civil suits with respect to any directives they may issue to ensure the performance of time-bound Internet access upgrades.
In batting for the passage of his bill, Campos invoked “the duty of the State to protect the interest of consumers, including Internet users, promote their general welfare, and to establish standards of conduct for business and industry, including the telecommunications sector.”
Cordoba, for his part, said: “The Commission strongly re-affirms its commitment to reinforcing the implementation and effectiveness of our own laws and in taking steps to update and improve those laws when necessary and where appropriate.”
The United Nations Human Rights Council has declared that all people have a right to Internet access in order to fully enjoy other fundamental liberties, such as the rights to information, education and free expression.
The Philippines’ Internet connection speed has been rated the slowest in Asia Pacific by Akamai Technologies Inc.
Based on Akamai’s State of the Internet Connectivity Report as of the first quarter of 2017, the Philippines’ 5.5 Mbps average connection speed pales when compared to Thailand’s 16.0 Mbps, Vietnam’s 9.5 Mbps, Malaysia’s 8.9 Mbps and Indonesia’s 7.2 Mbps.
Worldwide, South Korea has the fastest average connection speed at 28.6 Mbps, while Paraguay has the slowest at 1.4 Mbps.
Mbps is short for megabits per second – a measure of network transmission or data transfer speed. A megabit is equal to one million bits.(House of Representatives)