NTC fooled Filipinos to keep broadband standards low

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If the Philippines is lagging behind our Asian neighbors when it comes to broadband speed connection, we only have the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to blame.

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Far from its mandate of promoting consumer welfare, the telecommunications agency has, in fact, intentionally deceived Filipinos by purposely setting broadband standards much, much lower than that set by the NTC-recognized international standards body.

In its Memorandum Circular No. 07-08-2015 issued on Aug. 13, 2015, the NTC said: “Broadband, as defined by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), refers to a data connection speed of at least 256 kbps [kilobits – or thousand of bits – per second].”

Curious as to why the NTC would peg the internet speed in 2015 to that of a 1990s dial-up modem (a.k.a vintage, by today’s standards), we did a quick fact check and here’s what we gathered.

The ITU referred to by the NTC in its circular is an agency of the United Nations (UN) for information and communication technologies (ICTs). It is an international public-private partnership (PPP) organization based in Geneva, Switzerland; with some 193 countries and almost 800 private ICT sector entities (e.g. manufacturers, and telecoms carriers to R&D companies and academic institutions) among its members. It also allocates global radio spectrum and satellite orbits and develops technical standards on ICTs.

More than 12 years before the NTC came out with its circular, the ITU already defined what “broadband” is.

The FAQ section in the ITU website states: “What is broadband? Many people associate broadband with a particular speed of transmission or a certain set of services, such as digital subscriber loop (DSL) or wireless local area networks (wLANs). However, since broadband technologies are always changing, the definition of broadband also continues to evolve.”

“Today, the term broadband typically describes recent Internet connections that range from 5 times to 2000 times faster than earlier Internet dial-up technologies…Broadband combines connection capacity (bandwidth) and speed. Recommendation I.113 of the ITU Standardization Sector defines broadband as a transmission capacity that is faster than primary rate Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) at 1.5 or 2.0 Megabits per second (Mbits).” (See: https://www.itu.int/osg/spu/publications/birthofbroadband/faq.html)

In another webpage of the ITU website, the organization defined broadband in this manner: “The term broadband is commonly used to describe recent Internet connections that are significantly faster than earlier dial-up technologies…For instance, what was termed as a ‘fast’ Internet connection two years ago is now designated as ‘narrowband’. While the term broadband is used to describe many different Internet connection speeds, Recommendation I.113 of the ITU Standardization Sector (ITU-T) defines broadband as a transmission capacity that is faster than primary rate ISDN, at 1.5 or 2.0 Mbit/s.” (See: http://www.itu.int/osg/spu/ip/chapter_seven.html)

The term “recommendation” however, as used in the ITU website, should not be taken literally. It is not a mere suggestion. Rather, under ITU rules, “recommendations are standards that define how telecommunication networks operate and interwork.” In other words, a recommendation IS the standard. And in the case of broadband, contrary to NTC’s definition, the current standard is that the transmission rate should not be slower than 1.5 Mbps [or millions of bits per second].

We’re not telecoms engineers but from our layman’s point of view, the ITU’s broadband speed of 1.5 Megabits per second is definitely faster than NTC’s broadband definition of 256 kilobits per second (kbps).

The exceedingly low bar set by the NTC for broadband explains why the country’s Internet speed is the second slowest in Asia, next only to Afghanistan.

With the standard pegged at a turtle-paced 256 kbps, the country’s Internet service providers (ISPs) were practically given free rein by the NTC to set their own rules (and prices) as would allow them to generate maximum profit – all at the expense of consumers. As a result, there is also no pressure or incentive for ISPs to build the infrastructure to raise broadband speeds at par with our Asian neighbors.

Compare NTC’s pathetic response to that of its American counterpart, the United States’ Federal Telecommunications Commission (FTC).

For the second time in five years, the FTC in 2015 raised the broadband speed benchmark. In its 2015 Broadband Progress Report, the FTC said: “Congress directed us to evaluate annually whether advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all Americans. For a service to be considered advanced, it must enable Americans ‘to originate and receive high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video telecommunications’. Trends in deployment and adoption…and the speeds required to use high-quality video, data, voice, and other broadband applications all point at a new benchmark. With these factors in mind, we find that, having ‘advanced telecommunications capability’ requires access to actual download speeds of at least 25 Mbps and actual upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps.”

So why did the NTC lie about international broadband standards? In two words, regulatory capture. NTC is a “captured agency.” Although created to act in the public interest, the NTC is obviously working for the interests of the big players in the telecoms industry – the very same entities it is supposed to be regulating.

Like other captured government agencies, the NTC has become anti-consumer and anti-Filipino. The telecoms agency should be abolished, if not renamed “Nightmare To Consumers.”

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33 Comments

  1. Si Jun Abaya pa rin ang may hawak na palpak na ahensya ng gobyerno. Lahat ng under sa kanya walang ginawang matino mula sa LTO, MRT, NAIA, NTC, atbp. Ang walang muang na Pnoy ‘di na-realize na si Abaya ang nagpasama sa imahe ng kanyang administrasyon. Kaya tuloy ang mga presidentiables na nakapila mga walang kwenta.

  2. Anu po b ang pedeng gawin ntin s kagaya netong natutuklasan natin?? Kung matama nating iisipin, talagang kawawa c JUAN DELA CRUZ s kahit anung laban kapag andto k s PINAS. C MAYAMAN, kukuha lng ng mga SERBISYO N KAYA NILANG BAYARAN n kaaya aya s kanilang pangangailangan, gaya ng pagkuha ng mabilis n internet s kanilang tahanan. Etong c JUAN DELA CRUZ e magtyatyagang lunukin ang serbisyo ng mga naglalakihang PROVIDER kung anu lng ang kaya ng kanyang bulsa.
    Isa lamang po yang ka22hanan n ang “GAP” ng mayayaman at pangkarinawang PILIPINONG mamamayan ay PALAKI NG PALAKI d2 s atin.
    S akin pong pakiwari, hanggat walang PILIPINONG mamumuno s atin n titingnan ang ASPETONG paglaki ng AGWAT ng mayaman s pangkaraniwang PILIPINO, ay matatagalan p bago tuluyang umunlad ang aking PINAKAMAMAHAL n bansang PILIPINAS..

  3. I’m an ECE and some of the NTC Memorandum Circulars are too outdated, need to redefine the guidelines for what we call Quality of Service (QoS).

  4. Larry ebersole on

    Not only the NTC but the Congress or should I say TONGRESS who is much to blame as the give the franchise for the telcos to operate as they do? Do you remember that the Congress had already ruled to lower cost of text to 0.80 cents instead of 1.00 since two years ago but up to now telcos had not moved and Congress had not questioned so a captive congress as well and a government y that is pro investors ONLY.

  5. Bam Aquino put together a probe into the internet speeds a couple of years ago, Apparently his committee was just for face time on television and some print.

    Doesn’t look like that Aquino accomplished anything either. Taking up space as a useless talkative senator that accomplished nothing.

  6. pogingbushwaker on

    conivance with ISP’s.. smart 3g gamit ko.. nawala ang unli..800mb na lang per day.. tapos lalo bumagal.. pero nun nilagyan ko ng sim ng globe, mabilis..so it doesn’t matter ung 3g or 4g.. sila mismo ung nagkkontrol ng bilis at dami ng data.. niloloko nila tayo about 3g 4g o kung ano pang g.. its just business

  7. Very nice write-up and thank you for exposing this. I personally have always wondered why none of the very few telecom giants that we have would want to shell out capital to significantly improve our internet speed, to be at least close to — never mind ‘at par with’ — international, or even South East Asian standards….DESPITE their profitability. And your article succinctly explained the answer: Because our telecom giants don’t have the motivation to do so due to the very low standard set by NTC.

    • They don’t even have to upgrade anything. They just need to adjust the settings within their equipment, we are at a point that the slowest equipment will still be able to offer fiber speeds to all parties. Telcos just force the speed lower so they can charge more for faster access.

  8. Corporate Capture! This is what has become of the Philippines with the present administration. Mass transit systems like the LRT Line 1 have been privatized, with Line 2 and the PNR being rushed. Public hospitals and public market have also been privatized. And only God knows what is next. The Oligarchs as alive and well!

  9. They can say whatever they want cos nobody fighting for changes … just words of struggle (who cares…)!

    MAKIBAKA NA

    • Can’t see foreign competition ever being allowed in the Philippines – too much at stake for the oligarchy. Let the people eat cake.

  10. of course NTC lies, because they think our people were Stupid like them… Now a days the speed of internet should be in Megabites not KBPS.. Still they were not upgrading their systems or nobody wants to do so from the government..Among the asian countries, our country have the slowest and expensive internet …. our NTC have not updated from this technology.. People without information is Nothing…

  11. it is obvious that most govt, agencies in PH are set up to protect the business rather than the consumers, if you look around all of these govt. agencies are captured regulators to which they are supposedly to regulate to protect the consumers, I always wondered why the Filipinos are not revolting against their govt.? is it COWARDICE?

    • Heh, it is not cowardice, it is Natural, In Born, Filipino Trait to be lax and thus these Crocodiles use to take advantage of. Shameless politicians and businessmen

  12. Telcos should immediately replace the word “broad” in all their ads with “narrow” to be adhere to “truth in advertising.”

  13. Eduardo valdez on

    Every time I open my ipad to read online edition of newspapers I think i’m losing a few seconds of my life because of konsumisyon. Our internet is not only slow . In most cases it does not open I had to give up grudgingly.

  14. The big time owners are all YELLOW dummies….what can we expect? Ito and matuwid na daan.