Makati City Rep. Luis Campos, Jr. filed House Bill 7479 which would allow the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to penalize telecommunications companies P1 million per day or P365-million per year if they are found to “have violated, violating, or those which have failed or are failing to comply with any order decision or regulation of the commission.”

“Filipinos deserve faster Internet speeds, which have been associated with higher economic productivity, stronger jobs creation, and greater quality of life,” said Campos.

“We want the NTC to set faster Internet speed targets every year and then penalize the service providers that fail to deliver,” the congressman added.

Citing the recent figures from The Speedtest Global Index, Campos pointed out that globally, the Philippines, with an average mobile Internet speed of only 18.49Mbps (megabits per second), ranked No. 110 among 139 countries or territories as of November. In terms of fixed broadband, he said the country ranked No. 103 with an average speed of only 28.69Mbps.

With these, the lawmaker stressed that the country’s average Internet — second-slowest in the region — is way behind those of its peers in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), with Singapore ranking No. 1 with 241.10Mbps.

“Among the 10 member countries of the ASEAN, for instance, our average mobile Internet speed is ranked the second-slowest. In fact, our 18.49Mbps represents just 60% of the 30.94Mbps average mobile Internet speed across all ASEAN members,” Campos lamented.

“We are more concerned about mobile Internet speed because an overwhelming majority of Filipinos now access the web through their smartphones via their cellular telephone service provider,” he continued.

“We clearly still have one of the slowest Internet speeds in the world and in Asia. Filipinos deserve faster Internet speeds, which have been associated with higher economic productivity, stronger jobs creation, and greater quality of life,” he added.

“We want the NTC to set faster Internet speed targets every year, and then penalize the service providers that fail to deliver,” he further said.

Reacting to the proposed measure, one netizen said: “The better law is to specify the minimum sustained internet speed telcos need to guarantee. The fine is imposed for violation of the guaranteed speed. The problem with telcos is that the throughput of their transmission capability is insufficient for the number of subscribers.”

One netizen wrote: “This feels like a double-edged sword on the consumer’s end. I haven’t seen the bill yet, but it seems that the bill is focused on penalizing the telecom company, but there’s no consumer protection.”

“They’ll (telecom) end up raising their prices so the consumers can cover those hefty fines… The intention of the bill is good, but it needs and must be improved,” the commenter continued.

“I have a fair share of dissatisfaction, but instead of a fine, they can reallocate that 1M for building more infrastructure to improve their services. Also, there should be a universal definition of what is minimum speed,” he added.

“Instead of fine, how about rebates. These fines will just go to corrupt officials instead of the customers who are paying to do business,” another netizen said.

What could the Duterte administration do to improve PH’s internet speed?

Apart from enacting “bandage” laws with little to no effectivity or cure to address the country’s slow internet connectivity, the Duterte administration should aggressively support telecommunications infrastructure rollout as well.

Contrary to Campos’ proposed bill which seems a form of threat, the government should support telcos by providing shared utility facilities such as shared utility corridors, as well as shared towers and poles, as these could go a long way to reduce telco expenses.

Telcos have to dig their own utility corridors to lay cable. When they do so, the process is not only costly for the telcos but it also causes traffic congestion and other disruptions to the public.

With shared utility corridors dug only once, usually in parallel with the construction of a new road, highway, or rail track, these corridors can be made ready for the installation of the passive network infrastructure of the telco players.

Local government units can also build towers for the co-location of antennas to further help telcos reduce their expenses.

With telco companies like Globe Telecoms and Smart Communications’ massive investments in infrastructure over the years, the country is poised to see its internet speed and telecom services making a headway in 2021. But the government’s proactive intervention and financial investment in helping telcos is hardly needed to speed up the Philippines’ connectivity services.

Our neighbors in the ASEAN region are reaping the benefits of improved connectivity as their governments heavily invested in ICT infrastructure. Malaysian and Singaporean governments, for example, invested around $233.6 million and $1.7 billion, respectively. The Vietnamese government has invested $820 million specifically for a 23,000-kilometer submarine cable. The Thai government, meanwhile, apportioned $343 million to ensure the broadband connectivity of 24,700 villages.

The Philippine government, unfortunately, had not invested a centavo in developing internet services in the country, as per the NTC report.

If our neighbors can enjoy faster and more reliable connectivity, so can we. But our telcos also need help from the government, the same way how other governments in the ASEAN region helped the telcos in their respective countries.

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