• Faster PH internet hinges on new players, reforms

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    POLICY reforms and updates on laws and regulatory framework will attract new players and investors to improve the state of internet and broadband speeds in the Philippines.

    The Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines (JFC) and the Internet Society of the Philippines have issued a policy note on the country’s broadband situation, pointing out the constraints and challenges in the information, communications and technology sector.

    The policy note also includes recommendations to help address pressing issues involving internet services.

    Presenting the policy note on Wednesday, Winthrop Yu, chairman of the Internet Society, said the Philippines continued to have one of the most expensive yet slowest broadband services in the world.

    The country is under the duopoly of telco giants Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) and Globe Telecom Inc., which are two of the four most profitable telcos in the world, Yu noted, citing a 2010 study by Alcatel.

    Due to the potential entry of a new telco player, Telstra, through partnership with San Miguel Corp., PLDT and Globe have since been trying to improve their services to stay competitive and dominated the market.

    Despite the improvements in the last two years, Yu said “internet access in the Philippines is growing at a much slower pace compared to its Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] neighbors.”

    Presenting the recommendations, Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos, an ICT policy researcher of the Asian Development Bank, said the country has outdated laws and regulatory frameworks which can be revised and amended to attract potential investors.

    Some of the laws and regulatory frameworks that were mentioned included the amendments to the Republic Act 7925 or Public Telecommunications Policy Act and the CA No. 146 or the Public Service Law under the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), as well as the still pending Department of ICT Act and the NTC Reorganization Act.

    The revision and implementation of the four legislations will improve incentives that will attract investments in the telco sector of the Philippines, resulting in a competitive landscape that will lead to improved broadband services lower costs to the consumer, Mirandilla-Santos said.

    On policy recommendations, Mirandilla-Santos emphasized on venturing more into the local internet protocol peering and shared infrastructure to encourage a more centralized telecommunications infrastructure that will bring down the costs of the service providers.

    George Barcelon of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce Inc., as well as Yu and Mirandilla-Santos were in the same opinion that there is a need to create a Department of ICT under the next administration to address the issues and help improve the sector.

    Yu and Barcelon said the new ICT policy note was informally presented to various government agencies and legislators, verbally and through position papers, but will be presented soon as an extensive position paper.

    Mirandilla-Santos said the agencies so far agreed and expressed positive reactions on the policy recommendations, except the clause where the government is supposed to have a watered down authority or regulatory powers over the telcos.

    To enter the telecommunications sector in the country, she said a company must seek approval from Congress first, with the 60-40 foreign ownership limits in favor of local companies.

    Mirandilla-Santos noted that in other countries only licenses are required for new telcos to come in, unlike the legislated franchise in the Philippines.

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