Solon proposes bill compelling telcos to provide faster Internet services

MANILA — A lawmaker at the House of Representatives has filed a bill tagging Internet service as a “basic telecommunications function” to compel telecommunications companies to provide faster Internet service in the Philippines.

Makati City Rep. Luis Campos Jr. has filed House Bill 5337, which expressly redefines Internet service as “a prime telecommunications function within the jurisdiction and regulatory power” of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), giving it muscle to mandate faster connection speeds annually.

“This is the best solution to the country’s supply of sluggish, inefficient and costly Internet services,” Campos said.

“Our initiative is in keeping with the view of the United Nations Human Rights Council that all people have a right to Internet access, or the right to broadband, in order to exercise and enjoy other fundamental rights,” Campos said.

Under the current setup, Internet service in the Philippines is considered a value-added service (VAS). Campos said this makes it difficult for NTC to require compliance and higher standards from telcos.

“Right now, even if the NTC calls for compliance with faster connection speeds, Internet service providers will simply say they hope to eventually meet the terms, but not for now,” Campos said.

“And should regulators force the issue, they are vulnerable to civil lawsuits by defiant service providers,” he said.

HB 5337 seeks to impose hefty fines on Internet service suppliers that fail to deliver accelerating connection speeds within fixed deadlines with PHP100,000 in daily fines that could last up to 500 days, or reach up to PHP50 million, for every instance of non-compliance.

The bill also grants the NTC and its officers immunity from civil proceedings with respect to any directives they may issue to ensure the performance of time-bound upgrades in Internet services.

The bill seeks to amend the 22-year-old Public Telecommunications Policy Law of the Philippines, or Republic Act 7925.

According to the Akamai Technologies Inc.’s State of the Internet Report as of the first quarter of 2017, the Philippines has the slowest average connection speed at 5.5 megabits per second (Mbps) versus Thailand’s 16 Mbps, Vietnam’s 9.5 Mbps, Malaysia’s 8.9 Mbps and Indonesia’s 7.2 Mbps in the Asia Pacific.

The report added that the Philippines ranked 100th globally in average connection speed, while South Korea landed No. 1 worldwide with 28.6 Mbps, while Paraguay is No. 148 with 1.4 Mbps. Filane Mikee Cervantes/