Senate panel OKs bill requiring minimum Internet connection speed

The Senate Committee on Public Services has endorsed for approval Senate Bill No. 1831 or the proposed Better Internet Act which seeks to improve Internet services in the country.

SB No. 1831 would require Internet service providers to expand their coverage and set a minimum Internet connection speed.

Senators Grace Poe, Ralph Recto, and Emmanuel Pacquiao were listed as authors in the measure contained in Committee Report No. 110 which was also signed by nine other members.

Under the bill, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) shall require telecommunication entities and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to "extend and expand the service coverage of fixed and mobile Internet in all unserved and underserved areas in the Philippines within three years" which would be determined by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

It also proposes speed thresholds for the services to be delivered by the telcos and ISPs: 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) for fixed broadband and 5 Mbps for mobile broadband in highly urbanized areas and 5 Mbps and 3 Mbps for fixed and mobile broadband, respectively, in all other cities.

For rural areas, a minimum speed of 3 Mbps for fixed and 2 Mbps for mobile was set.

If enacted into law, telecommunication entities and ISPs have three years "to ensure that they provide, as a minimum, the threshold speeds to their end users."

Service providers will also be prohibited from advertising or offering Internet service speeds that they cannot consistently provide. They "shall provide to their subscribers 80 percent of their advertised speed available at 80 percent of the time," SB No. 1831 stated.

The NTC will be tasked to review yearly the level of threshold speeds and prescribe other quality of service standards so that subscribers are provided Internet connection that is at par with what is prevalent among Asia-Pacific countries. The agency, however, cannot reduce the standards set by the proposed law.

Internet speed has been an issue among Filipino subscribers.

But DICT Secretary Gregorio Honasan II had earlier said that the Philippines is "not doing too badly" compared to other countries in terms of Internet speed.

"Without going into figures, we are not doing too badly. Kaya lang po, naiintindihan natin na napakahirap nito ipaliwanag sa taong bayan (We understand that this is difficult to explain to the public). Sila pumapalo ng 55 Mbps, tayo naglalaro pa rin sa 3 and 7 Mbps pero hindi na po ito masama (Other countries have 55 Mbps, and while we have an internet speed between 3 and 7 Mbps but this is not so bad)," Honasan said during a House hearing on the DICT budget.