Telcos anti-consumer, says advocacy group

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An Internet advocacy group on Wednesday accused telecommunication companies (telcos) of being anti-consumer.

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The Internet Surfers Guild of the Philippines (ISGP) cited initial findings of the Mergers and Acquisition Office (MAO) of the Philippine Competitive Commission (PCC) on a P70-billion deal among PLDT, Globe Telecom and San Miguel Corp. that favored the telcos.

Prof. Ramon Jose, ISGP lead convenor, said the 16-page preliminary statement of concerns released by MAO deviates from the real consumer issue–the immediate improvement of the state of the Internet in the country by using much-needed frequencies that have long been denied Filipinos.

Jose noted that PLDT and Globe were given a deadline by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to improve their Internet services as a condition for approval of the deal and joint use of the 700MHz and 2600MHz frequencies.

“The government and the public will hold these telcos accountable if they fail to deliver within the given time frame. However, seeing that the PCC is hampering the telcos from using these frequencies, all the more the dream of having high speed Internet will remain just a dream,” Jose said.

ISGP said the role of the PCC is to look into the welfare of consumers and the recognition of businesses but they must not treat the SMC deal as an ordinary anti-competition case because of a bigger underlying concern that impacts consumers today–the slow Internet.

“The PCC must put in mind the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte, which is the immediate improvement of the Internet services,” according to Jose.

He said the telecommunication sector should not be treated as an ordinary consumer industry because of its utility function.

“The delivery of efficient telecommunication services to the public such as a faster Internet connection must not be hampered especially in today’s digital economy,” Jose added.

Historically, the country’s telecommunication sector is seen as the most neglected industry in terms of regulation and legislation, he said.

“The only governing law on telecommunications, Republic Act 7925 or the Public Telecommunications Policy Act, was ratified way back in 1994 when the Internet was still in its infancy stage,” according to Jose.

Compared to other countries that rank high in the global Internet connectivity speed index whether from Akamai or Ookla for fixed-line Internet or Open Signal for mobile Internet, the Philippines is the only country without government support for a national broadband policy covering investment and infrastructure.

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