SMART telecommunications Inc. is a step closer to getting another 25-year legislative franchise after the measure seeking to extend it was formally sponsored on plenary Wednesday.
Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public services presented the committee report on House Bill No. 4637, introducing amendments to Republic Act (RA) 7294 which originally granted Smart a 25-year legislative franchise in 1992.
In her sponsorship speech, Poe noted that it would have been convenient for the legislature to roll over Smart’s franchise by simply extending it but it is also the duty of lawmakers to make sure that the company will provide excellent service to its 56 million subscribers.
Poe however admitted that while her committee wants to include service guarantees, performance benchmarks, improvement pledges, impose penalties for “lousy service,” prohibit dropped calls, slow Internet, false advertising, it cannot do so since it is not included in the franchise renewal.
“Unfortunately these do not fall within the ambit of a legislative franchise. It is a function of regulation,” she lamented
Among the key provisions of the measure include the prerequisite for Smart to make a public offering, retaining the original wording in its original franchise that mandated 30 percent of its authorized capital stock must be listed through the stock exchange.
The House version deleted the said provision.
The Senate also wants to compel Smart to install facilities and bring under its coverage areas not yet served, particularly calamity-prone ones, where the presence of telecommunication services can help in times of disaster.
“We are requiring it (Smart) to upgrade and program its entire infrastructure to be on standby to send out free mobile disaster alerts as mandated by Republic Act 10639,” Poe said.
The Senate version also included a provision requiring congressional consent on the sale, lease, transfer, usufruct or assignment of the franchise, except in certain cases.
Smart’s franchise expires this month. Jefferson Antiporda