THE bill granting Manuel Pangilinan-led Smart Communications Inc. a fresh franchise is expected to face rough sailing in the Senate, with some senators complaining of the telecommunications firm’s services.
The House Representatives approved on third reading last Monday House Bill 4637, which extends the franchise of Smart for another 25 years.
Even before senators could get hold of the bill, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd expressed his reservations in passing the measure, at least before the Smart franchise expires in March, saying the telco needed to shape up.
Sotto said he couldn’t say if the Smart franchise bill would be passed on time as other senators also had some concerns over its services.
“Magpakatino sila (Smart) para mapasa franchise nila. Ganyan din gagawin namin sa Globe [They need to get their acts together if they want their franchise approved. We will also do the same with Globe],” Sotto said. Globe Telecom is Smart’s competitor.
Sotto cited the failure of telecommunication companies to put up additional cell sites all over the country to provide better mobile and internet services to subscribers.
There are only about 20,000 cell sites in the country serving more than 100 million subscribers, not even half of the required 67,000 to provide adequate coverage, he said.
Vietnam, which has fewer mobile subscribers, has a total of 55,000 cell sites, Sotto pointed out.
“The reason is that telecommunication companies in our country are all profit-oriented and not service-oriented,” Sotto said.
The head of the Senate Committee on Public Services, Sen. Grace Poe, likewise said there was no guarantee the Senate would be able to renew the Smart franchise bill before March.
“Franchise of a public utility is a privilege. We will definitely raise issues of service, speed and pricing of internet and mobile service,” she said.
Sen. Francis Escudero said he would also raise some issues particularly call charges as well as subscribers’ privacy.
Escudero cited charges for dropped call charges, which, he said, should be on a per second basis instead of per minute.
The Manila Times sought out Smart executives but was unable to get a comment at press time.