• Smart franchise faces rough sailing in Senate

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    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.

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    3 Comments

    1. Charlie Gemora on

      So if the Senate disapproves Smart’s franchise, what next? If the telco shuts down (oh, Ernest Cu would love that), will that improve our service, especially now that they are in the midst oif rolling out the new 700 mhz frequency? Are they expecting a new telco player to just waltz in, take over and reach, let alone exceed, the service level of remaining telco Globe within a year or so? No one will dispute that Philippine telco service is in great need for improvement and that compeitition is needed. So rather than hitching a ride on public dissatisfaction for pogi points, our legislators should heed the warning of the Department of Information and Communications Technology that regulatory red tape like stiff fees and numerous permits (especially from LGUs where the cell towers are erected) should be minimized if we are to see not only faster expansion of service but a more inviting environment for outside competition.

    2. The Senators should have the CONSUMERS on their mind, how they were being robbed by poor services and yet, they are paying first class services. First and foremost, these two telecommunication giants, Smart and Globe, need to invest on their hardware of their infrastructures to increase the speed of transmission. Smart and Globe have been enjoying their profits but their services to the consumer keep on declining. Philippines have been known to be the TEXT Capital of the world but have the slowest internet access. The Senators should only give Smart an extension to operate their business to give them time to upgrade their whole infrastructure and do the same with Globe. Ang masama lang dito ay kung may LAGAYAN, at puwedeng bilihin an SENADORS, patay na naman tayo.