I still remember the day when the Philippines was connected to the Internet in that March day in 1994. I still remember what it was like pre-internet in the Philippines. Talking about the internet in the Philippines is not complete without remembering Benjie Tan and Jim Ayson (we miss you guys!). This isn’t about the past, though, but the future of internet in the Philippines.
The current internet in the country is slow and expensive (currently paying P2899/mo, about USD57, for “up to 100Mbps”). The available ‘cheap’ internet is a bastardization of the real, open internet (yes, I am looking you, Facebook and your parasitic Free Basics). We may be enjoying faster internet connections compared to three years ago, but we are still lagging far behind our ASEAN neighbors. Why? One major contributor to this is the outdated laws of the land — laws crafted decades before the internet reached our shores. The first thing to fix to improve internet in the Philippines is to craft a new law.
There is good news in the horizon as there are two bills currently in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The House version is authored by Victor A. Yap, House Bill no. 57, “An Act Promoting Open Access in Data Transmission, Providing Additional Powers to the National Telecommunications Commission”, whilst the Senate version is authored by Ralph G. Recto, Senate Bill no. 45, “An Act Promoting Open Access in Data Transmission, Providing Additional Powers to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and for other purposes”.
I am particularly concerned with HB 57, Section 12 (b), and SB 45, Section 14 (b), both on Paid Prioritization. I quote the SB version:
A data transmission industry participant, shall not engage in paid prioritization for monetary or other consideration except when allowed by the NTC after each participant demonstrates that the practice would provide significant public interest benefit and will not disadvantage content and applications that are not prioritized nor harm the open nature of the Internet.
In my humble opinion, this is the closest we can get to having network neutrality! What concerns me here is that the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) is the final approving agency. We all know that the NTC has yet to demonstrate that it’s protecting the best interests of the citizens, instead of the telcos and its partners! With this particular provision, I am hoping that NTC will finally preserve net neutrality!
As we celebrate the 26th year of internet in the Philippines, let each one of us be heard by our congressmen and senators — to make this bill a priority and pass it right away! For a better internet in the Philippines, sign the petition now.