The world is waiting for better PH internet

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PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is not the first Philippine leader to call for a better internet network for the country, but he may be the first whose call has attracted widespread attention outside the country.

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This week, the noted economic research and consulting firm Oxford Business Group highlighted Duterte’s “agenda for a smarter and faster Philippines” in its weekly report, referring to Duterte’s July 25 State of the Nation Address in which he disclosed that he had tasked the new Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) to develop a plan for a nationwide fiber-optic and wireless network.

That the Philippines needs a much better communications network is painfully obvious to any of us who are obliged to try to use it, but the statistics cited by OBG put the depth of our digital despair in stark relief: The Philippines ranks 21st out of 22 Asian countries in terms of internet download speeds.

That performance has only moderately improved over the past two years, according to OBG, creeping up by 1 Mbps from 2.5 Mbps to 3.5 Mbps. At the same time, the analysts point out, Vietnam improved from 2.9 Mbps to 5.0 Mbps, while Indonesia and Thailand both raised their internet speeds by more than 50 percent, to 4.5 Mbps and 10.8 Mbps, respectively.

OBG also noted that Philippine internet users are saddled with some of the highest prices on the planet, the equivalent of more than $18 per month, compared with a global average of $5.20 per month.
Bad service and high costs have limited Philippine broadband penetration to about 11 percent of the population, OBG said.

Increasing broadband availability to more people is critical to the economy, it explained, because according to a study by the World Bank, an increase of 10 percent in broadband penetration can increase GDP by up to 1.38 percent.

OBG also took note that no details of the plan have been revealed, and expressed some mild misgivings about whether the country would be successful in carrying out the objective, given the history of failed aspirations, most recently the aborted National Broadband Network (NBN) scheme under the Arroyo Administration.
Those misgivings are not at all misplaced, and they should serve as a significant caution to the Duterte Administration. Failure to follow through on what is, at this point, an aspiration, will be viewed quite negatively.

And there are many ways the plan could fail. For one thing, it is not at all certain whether the government has the human and material resources to effectively manage a large-scale network. The most likely method of deployment will be through an arrangement similar to that of the old NBN plan, which tapped Chinese telecom giant ZTE to develop the network.

And it is a virtual certainty that any plan that does not allow the country’s two dominant telecom providers, PLDT and Globe, to have a substantial stake will face fierce resistance. The recent success of the two companies in getting a court to halt the review of their controversial multibillion peso deal to acquire San Miguel Corp’s valuable 700 MHz spectrum and other assets is likely a hint of things to come, should a plan that might threaten their stranglehold on the market gain traction.

We hope the Administration moves with purpose to carry out the President’s call, but more importantly, we hope that the risks are recognized, and due regard to steps to preventing them from scuttling – again – capacity the country sorely needs to flourish are taken.

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8 Comments

  1. for now, what the new govt can do is strengthen the teeth of NTC. internet provider like globe or smart should be monitored for their committed bandwidth being applied for. should it fail to deliver- NTC should penalized them and repeat offense would mean revocation of their license.

    of course, testing the access network- that is, the connection from the customer premises up to the providers network will always yield maximum throughput BUT that is not where the problem lies. It is the aggregate bandwidth from their customer facing equipment going to their higher layer equipment that has often the congestion.

    just like ERC being able to access a power plant’s SCADA system, NTC should be given access to the internet providers Network Mgmt System as well. in that way, real time monitoring especially issues like traffic congestion can be easily viewed and resolved.

  2. Driggs Matabaran on

    If the government can not protect the consumers against the firm grip of large industries that are constantly milking the poor through costly internet rates, who will? If the supreme court protect the interest of the oligarchs instead of the ordinary citizens, how can people hope for a better future?

  3. We should take a look at the models of other countries; how they are doing it. I would suggest that the President invite the CEOs of Globe and PLDT/Smart to a meeting at Malacanang. A good tongue-lashing and tough talk might do wonders.

    • Or just threaten their families on the mark. Those monopoly minded pigs oviously never cares for the betterment of the country. Maybe if their lives is at stake, who knows what realy can be done with our internet?

  4. Vijay Mehta M.D. on

    What President Duterte can do to start the process is establish a government agency that oversees the broadband and phone service providers. If there is no service for any reason the customer should not be billed for those days. Also every complain that is not resolved in 48 -72 hours should be forwarded to that agency. Currently the internet providers are acting like they have monopoly and customer service is near zero. In these day and age no country can progress unless they provide reliable net connection to large part of population at reasonable cost.

  5. Well said on a most important topic.

    1. You cannot trust the chinese. Never ever bring in those chinese and their equipment to control the network in our country.

    2. You are right in pointing out that the two companies will do whatever it takes to keep their feet on the necks of the Filipino people forever.

    Probably best for congress and senate (although most of the members may also be working for the interest of the two companies) to pass more stringent anti-monopoly laws and allow 100% foreign ownership of ISPs. And give incentive to new players.

    I really don’t know what the solution is but the situation is dire indeed. And the two companies continue to laugh their ways to the bank.

  6. Im sure if you let in another foreign telecom company to compete with globe and smart, he oligarchs are going to hatch a plan to demonize you like they did to arroyo when she brought in nbn-zte.

    • Vijay Mehta M.D. on

      ‘Im sure if you let in another foreign telecom company to compete with globe and smart, he oligarchs are going to hatch a plan to demonize you like they did to arroyo when she brought in nbn-zte.”

      Just remember Duterte is not Arroyo. this man is taking Drug lords and Islamic terrorist head on – he cn surely take on the wi fi providers. Besides the public sentiment is with him so he can sure do something bout it.