PCCI urges new Congress to prioritize internet bill

Published June 28, 2022, 3:05 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) has strongly urged the incoming 19th Congress to pass the Open Access in Data Transmission Act as the country’s largest business group lamented the fact that the Philippines remains to be the lone country in the world that still needs a congressional franchise to provide data transmission service.

“It is lamentable that in this digital age, the Philippines remains to be the lone country in the world that still needs a congressional franchise to provide data transmission service,” said PCCI President George Barcelon during a webinar on Priority Policy Reforms for Better Internet.

The PCCI has identified key internet-related bills to be prioritized by the 19th Congress. These include legislations on Open Access in Data Transmission Act, Rural Wired Connectivity Development Act, Spectrum Management Act, Better Internet Act, and the Satellite-Based Technologies Promotion Act.

Barcelon emphasized the importance of the Open Access in Data Transmission Act because it removes the requirement for a congressional franchise, Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN), and Provisional Authority (PA).

These proposed policy reforms will incentivize local ICT providers to expand their services in rural areas and ensure the efficient and equitable distribution of frequency spectrum through the conduct of a public bidding. “Through these priority reforms, we can finally address the legal obstacles and outdated internet laws that stifle the country’s ability to keep pace with its neighbors in ASEAN in the area of ICT,” he said.

Barcelon emphasized that once these legislations are passed, these will build on the recent improvements in the country’s internet connection.

It can be recalled that in 2014, the Philippines’ average internet speed was 3.6 megabits per second (Mbps), an astounding 57.4 difference to Singapore’s 61 Mbps. Asean neighbors, Laos and Myanmar, even surpassed the Philippines with 4.0 Mbps and 4.9 Mbps, respectively.

Despite being dubbed as the “Social Media Capital of the World”, Philippine internet was truly in a sorry state.” I am happy to note, however, that times have changed,” he said.

According to Ookla, the country’s broadband speeds are now at 50.26 Mbps, 14 times faster than it was eight years ago. More interestingly, the Philippines ranked 108 in July 2020 in terms of global broadband speeds. Five months later, the country’s ranking climbed to 36 notches at 72nd in December 2020!

The Department of Information and Communications Technology attributes this achievement to the outgoing Duterte administration’s “common tower” policy where all new telco towers will be available for sharing by ICT service providers.

The PCCI also cited the emergence of Converge ICT likewise ultimately put pressure against the other telco giants to improve their services. “Indeed, these developments show we can go beyond good internet, especially if there still remains 53 percent of Filipino individuals, 52 percent of public schools, and 57 percent of households unconnected to the internet,” he said.

Barcelon likened a “good” internet to that of a highway – the more lanes it has, the more traffic can flow with ease. “We have yet to achieve this. The good news though is that we are almost there,” he concluded.