What will it take to fix this mess?
Everybody knows that the internet in the Philippines sucks. It’s an oft repeated adage that our internet is slow, expensive and ridiculously unreliable. While I’m one of the few people that enjoy relatively fast, first world internet at home, the minute I step out of the door, all of that goes out the window. And while both Globe and Smart deserve a fair share of the blame, there’s a multitude of factors at play here that prevent our country from enjoying first world internet. Thankfully, there are solutions as well:
Give the telcos more cell towers and less red tape
First is the lack of physical cellsites around the country. We’ve already gone over why the most exclusive villages in the Metro is robbing you of your internet speeds, but for the sake of this article, we’ll go through it again. Mobile internet relies on physical cell towers to distribute information to your phone, and each cell tower only has a certain amount of devices that it can handle before the quality (and speed) of the service goes to the toilet. The problem is that both telcos are saying that they run into major issues with both LGUs and exclusive, gated subdivisions that either mire their applications in red tape and outright refuse to let them put cell towers in areas that are in their jurisdiction, respectively.
The result is far less cell towers in the metro compared to our Asian neighbors, which leads to slow internet and congested networks. The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) headed by Secretary Rodolfo A. Salalima is looking to solve this with faster processing times for permits that’s related for the telecoms infrastructure (he’s targeting 7 days for processing).
The NTC needs to pack real cojones to keep both telcos in line
Now many skeptics say that this is a convenient excuse of Smart and Globe to pass the buck to someone else, but personally we want the DICT Chief’s recommendation to be implemented via an EO so we can see if that really helps things. If it doesn’t, then another thing needs to happen to help things along: the government needs to give the NTC more teeth to impose fines against telcos that do not deliver what they promise.
Back in February of 2016 Senator Bam Aquino filed Senate Bill No. 3208, where the government would fine telcos exorbitant amounts of money for each violation of any of the NTC’s resolutions or regulations (anywhere from Php 300,000 to 5 million a day), up from the ridiculously laughable Php 200 a day. And Senator Aquino isn’t the only one that sees how ridiculous it is for gigantic corporations like Smart and Globe to pay incredibly low fines for fudging a utility – even Congressmen like 1Pacman Rep. Mikee Romero and Enrico Pineda has proposed an amendment to the 70-year-old law that penalizes telcos, hiking that incredibly laughable figure to Php 2 million via House Bill 3996.
Even Senator Win Gatchalian recognizes the need for the expansion of the NTC’s mandate and powers. As the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, Gatchalian recommended that the NTC be granted additional authority to allow it to more effectively discipline erring or incompetent telecommunication companies.
“The objective here is to see if we have enough regulatory mechanisms to make the playing field even. Telecommunications is a public utility, and just like other public utilities, it has to be regulated to make sure that the playing field is even, to make sure that customers are getting the value that they are paying for.” Gatchalian said.
More competition is always a good thing
The third biggest and most important thing that needs to happen for better PH internet is more competition. Here’s the problem though – setting up a new telco isn’t that easy – even a company as huge as San Miguel Corp. found out the hard way that setting up your own telco isn’t as easy as putting up new infrastructure and calling it a day. A study from University of the Philippine Professor Emeritus Epictetus Patalinghug showed that only the government has the resources and capability to put up a viable third telco in the country to go up against the established players like Smart and Globe.
While that study is a little suspect considering it came from Globe, it kind of makes sense if you think about it. Going up against established players like Globe and Smart, players who are literally entrenched in the Philippines since the 90’s is an almost impossible task. The 60/40 legal requirement of foreign investments here in the Philippines, plus the astronomical cost of putting up infrastructure to compete with these players is immense, and may not be realistic for a private company.
But we can still have competition. What the government can do is they can build the infrastructure required for telcos, then sell bulk airtime to other companies to resell to consumers. Sounds familiar? It’s the same model that Cherry Mobile uses with their Cherry Prepaid service to good effect. It’s not that far-fetched as Thailand essentially does the same with the state-owned company, TOT Public Company Limited, which hosts two Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) – i-Kool 3G and IEC3G.
The problem of crappy internet in the Philippines is a complicated one and there’s no magic bullet solution for it. There’s a lot of blame to go around, but there’s a lot of solutions to be had too. We’re hoping against hope that one day we all get the internet service that we deserve.
DICT Wants Permits For Telcos Done In Seven Days
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Bam Aquino Wants Higher Fines Against Erring Telcos
Cherry Mobile Is Kind Of A Telco Now
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