NTC’s pass-the-buck strategy

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THE National Telecommunications Commission (NTC)’s vague response to the sale of San Miguel Corp. (SMC)’s telecommunications business to the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) and Globe Telecoms (Globe) only goes to show that the nation’s telecoms regulator has turned into a passive and impotent observer instead of the proactive public watchdog that it is supposed to be.

As a brief backgrounder, SMC used to hold 90 MHz of spectrum in the 700-Mhz radio frequency band, with 80 MHz assigned to Wi-Tribe Telecommunications (a unit of Liberty Telecoms) and 10 MHz to High Frequency Telecommunications. Liberty Telecoms and High Frequency are, in turn, owned by Vega Telecom, a wholly owned company of SMC. With the buyout of SMC’s shares in Vega Telecom, PLDT and Globe effectively acquired the valuable spectrum previously assigned to the food and beverage giant.

Two days after the news of the buyout appeared in the front page, NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios announced that the telecoms regulator was giving the country’s two biggest operators a maximum of one year to “significantly” improve their internet services. Otherwise, he warned the NTC would revoke their takeover of the valuable 700 MHz spectrum. Cabarios also said he “expected” Globe and PLDT to increase internet speed from the current 1Mbps to an average of 5Mbps in three to six months at no additional cost to consumers.

But NTC isn’t fooling anyone.


If the NTC was really bent on improving internet services, it should have required—not merely “expected”—local telcos to meet a certain minimum speed within the next 12 months. By not setting any standard, the NTC practically left it to the telcos to determine what constitutes a “significant” improvement of internet speed. The NTC’s move to keep its hands off the controversial buyout is what our colleagues in the legal profession would call as “bakla.” No offense meant to the LGBT community.

Clearly, all that the telecoms agency did is pass the buck to the local telcos to comply with incoming President Rodrigo Duterte’s call for faster and affordable internet services when—as the manager of the nation’s radio spectrum and regulator of the telecoms industry—it should have been at the forefront of regulatory crusade for better internet services.

This is why Cabarios’ bravado is really just for show. It’s a ploy by NTC officials to hopefully convince Duterte that the agency is doing its job. Cabarios admitted as much when he said that the NTC’s decision “is in response to the order issued [by the president-elect]for telcos to improve Internet services the soonest time possible.”

Truth is, were it not for Duterte’s warning that the local telcos better shape up and improve internet speeds or face competition from new foreign players, the NTC probably would not even have the balls to demand that the country’s biggest telcos to effect a “significant improvement” in internet speeds in a year.

In fact, we remember that it was only around nine months ago, in Aug. 2015, when the NTC issued Memorandum Circular 07-08-2015 setting the minimum broadband speed in the country at 256 Kbps (kilobytes not megabytes, mind you). So while our Asean neighbors like Singapore were enjoying broadband speeds as fast as 118 Mbps (yes, megabytes), the country’s telecoms regulator pegged the country’s broadband speed to that of a circa 2001 DSL connection—in kilobytes!!

For NTC and Cabarios to do a complete about-face (or more like a 360-degree acrobatic flip) by requiring local telcos “to increase the speed at no additional cost to consumers” is nothing short of a miracle. Hallelujah!! That or the epiphany of NTC commissioners are really “in aid of retention.” It surely does wonders when their necks are on the chopping block come June 30.

And to think that just a few months ago, Cabarios and company were singing an entirely different tune.

Remember the public outcry last September about the country’s expensive internet rates? The NTC said then that “consumers have no choice but to bear with higher charges in exchange for faster internet speed.” Cabarios explained that “the internet connection provided by telecommunication companies is considered as a value added and deregulated service,” and, therefore, “the NTC has no power to dictate the charges for such services.”

Lo and behold! Nine months later, the NTC is threatening to revoke the permits of local telcos if they are unable to “significantly improve” internet speeds in six months with no price increase to consumers. Kaya ninyo naman pala, eh, bakit hindi niyo pa ginawa dati?!! If NTC officials can compel local telcos to provide faster internet speeds without increasing surfing charges, why have they only done this now?! What have they been doing the past six years aside from sitting in their air-conditioned offices?!

As with many other government regulators, the NTC has been “captured” by powerful and influential players in the telecoms industry. Filipinos are aware that the telecoms agency is working for the interests of industry bigwigs whom it is supposed to be regulating rather than the interest of the public at large.

If Duterte truly wants faster and affordable internet for Filipinos, he should start cleansing the ranks of the NTC, from the top.

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15 Comments

  1. United States Jan 2015

    The FCC, tasked with overseeing the rules that govern the Internet, raised the standard for broadband to 25 megabits per second, while raising the upload speed to 3 Mbps.

    Philippines Aug 2015

    “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

  2. Thank You for this good news! A news for the benefits of the masses. Keep it going.

    Tanggalin na ang mga buwaya at incompetent sa NTC. Hindi lang ito sa NTC pati na rin sa ibang departamento. What we need are very strict rules. Abusado ang mga yan kasi walang dumedesiplina.

    Ilang taon na sila dyan sa position wala pa rin hakbang para mabawasan talaga ang presyo at masolusyonan ang napakahinang internet speed. Meron man nagawa ngunit hindi ito naramdaman ng karamihan at ang iba nga ay umiiyak dahil pinahina ang speed nila.

    Dapat rin pag-aralan ang nagawa ng mga taga ibang bansa kung paano nila nasolusyonan ito at e-apply sa ating batas. Yung unforgiving at mapupush sila sa pagsira or follow our rules.

  3. “Minimum speed is 256 Kbps. Minimum service reliability is 80%.
    Standard lock-in period is 24 months”
    —————————————-

    256 kbps is 32kb

    If you have a 15 mb download and you are only getting 32 kb instead of what you thought you were paying for 1500 kb line as far as Globelines is concerned the 32 kb is all they are required to provide.

    256 kbps is that a joke ?

    Fire the NTC

  4. Most of Globelines DSL plans up to 15 Mbps downloads come with low data caps 100 Gb per month down to 50 Gb cap on the 3 Mbps line.

    Also included in these plans is the small print which allows them to provide terrible service and you get to pay for that for 2 years.

    “Minimum speed is 256 Kbps. Minimum service reliability is 80%.
    Standard lock-in period is 24 months”

    Fire everyone at the NTC, they are useless, they work for the telco’s not the people.

  5. NTC gave us a 256 Kbps narrowband for years. Now let’s see if Due Dirty could give them a 118 Mbps broadband on their way out of their milking farm.

    NTC should be integrated with the DOJ if their komisyon-ers would keep on lawyering for the big foreign industry players (Globe/PLDT) against the Filipino people.

  6. I really don’t know how far the Philippines had achieved in terms of socio economic development. Easier access to globalization already started in the time of PGMA maybe 2004 or even earlier. Unfortunately, we are still lagging when it comes to progress. Adapting technological advancements seems to be made easier and faster expectedly. However, business tycoons in our country make it difficult for the Philippines to achieve one. At the same time, our government has no guts in taking advantage of the trends in the global arena until they would not be receiving benefits first.

    I just hope that President-elect Duterte would be able to lessen the technology gap and lead our country into a more progressive nation.

  7. We need more competition in the information technology industry with a minimum of (5) service providers to provide the Filipinos cheaper and faster internet. Incoming President Du31 must removed the incompetent NTC officials and released us from bondage of this duopoly companies.

  8. Albert Clayton on

    A big heart giving thanks to Attorney Delay

    We desperately need our president to employ the services of action men and not professional “pretenders” who draw large salaries and benefits for actually working against the people.

  9. Driggs Matabaran on

    NTC as a government regulatory body failed miserably in the context of very slow and costly internet service. We are having the slowest internet speed in Asia because NTC failed its job. Imagine setting an internet speed standard in 2015 that is 15 years behind? Are they out of their mind? Considering the highly evolving nature of the technology and vital role of ICT in socio-economic development, they need to shift their operating gears to help catalyze growth of the whole country. If they are really sincere in helping the Filipinos, they have to shape up by protecting the interest of the general consuming public, and not helping big corporations continue exploiting their hapless clients and customers with lousy and costly internet services…

  10. Rudi Miranda on

    Congratulations! Thank you! It’s the kind of opinion needed at the moment, Change!

  11. Mr President DUTERTE please please please remove all the officials of NTC salot lahat mga yan kaya mabagal ang ating internet at ang balita ko pa hawak ng PLDT at GLOBE ang mga opisyales ng NTC. Maraming salamat po Mr President

  12. The Manila Times must be proud of the objectivity of the revelations made on the columns penned by Mr . Tiglao and Atty. Dulay on “telcos”. These informations can greatly help in sorting out the maze of machinations done on how foreign owned companies took control of the country’s telecom giants.

    BTW there is a whale of a difference between a Kilobyte and a Megabyte. But watch how a “Mindabyte” or a Mindanaon Bite does to people and/or companies that preys on the poor Filipino consumer.

  13. Maribel A. Calanda on

    I agree with you and these telcos are owned by foreigners basically. Not only do they charge high fees for a speedier mbps, their technical teams are not well paid perhaps because it will take days before a technical man can visit your site. I had a very sad experience with this Globe communications when I lost my landline and internet on April 26, 2016, it was restored 2 weeks after or when a technical man visited my place. The call center agent can do nothing if a technical person would not visit the place. You will just hear their resounding apology each time you make a follow-up. Dapat there would be more players and not limited only to the two foreign owned PLDT and Globe.

  14. The telecoms regulator was giving the country’s two biggest operators a maximum of one year to “significantly” improve their internet services.
    ———————————–
    Increased speed means nothing when the two internet companies apply their data caps which puts limits on how much a customer can use their internet.

    Predatory contracts – Why is there a 2 year lock in period ? In first world countries you can cancel your service anytime you want and for any reason. In the Philippines PLDT and Globe have these unfair contracts that allow them to provide substandard service and still get paid.