Internet connection is king
We are all exasperated with our Internet connectivity that we are willing to set, by law, the speed by which providers need to do their job. Truly a sad state of service from domestic providers. And yet the suggested mandatory speed is wishful thinking with a measly fine of Php5 million per House Bill No. 19 filed by Rep. Rufino Biazon (Lone Dist, Muntinlupa).
Our present average internet connection speed is 3.5 Mbps versus the global average of 6.3 Mbps. The global leader is South Korea at an average of 29 Mbps and at the ASEAN level is Singapore at an average of 12.5 Mbps. As of January 2017, we have 60 million Filipinos in Facebook, 27.6 million in FB messenger, 21 million in Twitter, 20.4 million in IG, among others. Though there are approximately 110 million Filipinos, 129.4 million Filipinos are active mobile phone users versus 40 million active smartphone users in the country.
Internet connection is therefore king. And the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) can only cajole providers via signing memorandum setting the minimum broadband speed at 256 kbps and mandated service providers to disclose to the public the average data rates per location, to which no consistent dissemination has been done. So what gives, NTC? And the hope of having some sunshine in the industry courtesy of the Department of Information and Communications Technology is in a grinding speed. Not much has been done to intervene in a market that has failed to service the consumers for years.
Under the proposed bill, the NTC "shall establish requirements as deemed appropriate to ensure that ISPs meet the minimum standards in Internet connection speed, and provide parameters regarding connection, reception, just pricing, and billing practices to promote and protect the rights of consumers of internet services." That comes as a shock because that is NTC's job. The measure also grants NTC the "authority to adjust the minimum standard" based on periodic review. Again, they could do that.
So can NTC also stop PLDT from showing that pop up on screens to users who are either delayed in their month's dues or PLDT is so delayed in updating their list of paid clients? Why should PLDT be allowed to do that? When their internet connection crashes, subscribers don't get any refund or added value from their bad service. They don't even repair it fast. And yet pop ups have been launched to annoying frequency to remind you of their bad service and one's hard earned money to pay for a bad service.
About time regulators get their acts together to protect consumers than be captured by providers. A mandatory internet speed is the easiest way out. It may be laudable but we may just fall into the trap of creating false hopes in the long term because NTC has not really done much for the public.