The House Committee on Information and Communications Technology has approved a bill that would mandate public telecommunication entities (PTEs) and internet service providers (ISPs) to provide a minimum internet speed of 2 Megabits per second (Mbps) to its customers all over the country.
Gaining the committee’s nod Friday was a still unnumbered substitute bill on the proposed “Faster Internet Services Act.” The measure was the consolidation of House Bill (HB) Nos. 38, 312, 4132, and 4367, which panel members harmonized in earlier technical working group (TWG) meetings.
TWG head, Muntinlupa City lone district Rep. Ruffy Biazon presented the substitute bill to the panel.
Biazon read the salient features of the measure, specifically Section 4, which states that the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) would “require all ISPs to only advertise and offer internet service download speeds that they can consistently provide and work towards providing an average internet connection speed above global average.”
The provision echoes the usual complaint of PTE and ISP customers that actual connection speeds that they get is much lower than had been promised to them.
“The minimum broadband download speed delivered to subscribers shall not be lower than 10 Mbps in metropolitan cities, 5 Mbps in all other cities, and 2 Mbps in rural areas within a two-year compliance period for fixed and mobile internet connectivity across the country,” Section 4 further read.
At first, Albay 2nd district Rep. Joey Salceda flatly rejected this tier-based minimum speed requirement and warned that district representatives from the province would also thumb it down if that version of the bill reaches plenary.
“Sobrang bagal ng 2 Mbps…this is so unacceptable. Baka pagtawanan tayo sa labas lalo na kung marinig sa floor (Our colleagues might laugh at us especially if they hear about this on the floor),” said Salceda, who was one of the authors.
Other solons in the meeting commented that the 2 Mbps minimum for rural areas was “discriminatory” and that a uniform minimum of 10 Mbps regardless of area would be better.
But the oppositors appeared to have a change of heart after Internet Society-Philippines Chapter researcher, Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos and technology expert Wilson Chua explained that the 2 Mbps minimum wasn’t so bad.
More importantly, the two resource persons said it was a realistic figure for the current internet infrastructure.
“Marami na pong pwedeng gawin dyan (That is very serviceable),” Santos said of the proposed minimum speed, provided that it is consistently delivered.
Salceda would sheepishly admit later that he called several of his constituents mid-hearing and was told that they welcomed the 2 Mbps minimum.
For his part, Chua warned that “legislating a higher minimum broadband speed than what the players can bear might have the opposite effect.”
Taking this into account, Salceda moved for the removal of three lines worth of “anti-competitive clauses” in the bill, as well as the addition of a penal provision against PTEs and ISPs that would fail to meet the minimum speed requirement.
Biazon accepted these amendments, leading to the substitute bill’s passage shortly after.