TELCOS: COME UP WITH ACCEPTABLE INTERNET SPEED AND COST
Instead of merely testing Internet speeds, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) should conduct an audit to assess the coverage and quality of service of telecommunications companies (telcos) to pressure them into making Internet access faster and cheaper, Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero suggested.
Escudero made the call as the NTC prepares to carry out a speed test this month to determine if telcos are true to their advertised Internet speed.
“An audit is necessary to determine the gravity of the problem of slow Internet connection in the Philippines. This will become the basis for NTC to come up with new guidelines on acceptable speed and cost that telcos are duty-bound to follow,” Escudero said.
The new guidelines should effectively compel the telcos to invest in infrastructure and technologies development so they can deliver faster data connection to their subscribers.
Escudero said the problem of pathetic Internet speed and service in the Philippines could be easily addressed if telcos are forced by law to set aside a portion of their huge revenues for better network infrastructure.
Citing an NTC study, one of the biggest telcos in the Philippines said (US) $16.6 billion, or around P750 billion, is needed to bring two (2) megabits per second download speeds to 80 percent of Philippine households by 2016.
“The telcos have been reaping billions of pesos in profits at the expense of their subscribers who continue to complain about the slow and expensive data services they provide,” Escudero pointed out.
“I think it is more than fair and reasonable to compel telcos to spend on the necessary infrastructure expansions and upgrades that will allow them to provide some real service to individuals and industries that need reliable data connections,” he stressed.
Escudero said the NTC, as the agency that regulates and supervises the telecommunications sector, should make sure that the data experience meets the requirements and expectations of the Philippines’ Internet users, who are now close to 40 million.
“If we want to sustain the growth momentum of the economy, particularly the BPO industry, we need to have the infrastructures to deliver reliable and high-quality Internet services,” the senator said.
In a recent Senate hearing, NTC officials announced that the commission will begin monitoring this September the Internet speed being provided by telcos and compare these with their advertised speed.
According to NTC officials, the move was part of government efforts to address the problem of slow Internet in the country.
“Internet speed monitoring, at best, can only be a measure against deceptive or misleading advertising, but it would not result in faster and cheaper Internet,” Escudero added.
“When the NTC confirms what millions of subscribers have been saying, what then? This is why they need to go further and find ways to force telcos to address the problem by building better network infrastructures,” the senator said.
The latest household download index report by global Internet provider Ookla ranked the Philippines 21st out of 22 countries in Asia in terms of Internet speed, trailed only by Afghanistan. It has a household download speed of 3.64 Megabits per second (Mbps); top-ranked Singapore has a broadband speed of 122.43 Mbps and Hong Kong clocked in with 102.96 Mbps.
Even with such poor service, the Philippines is tagged as having one of the most expensive Internet services in the world.
SITUS RULE ON LOCAL BUSINESS TAX
On the other hand, Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero urges the administration to support the proposed amendment to the situs rule on local business tax in a bid to raise revenues for local government units (LGUs) and boost their financial capability to execute programs in their respective areas. He underscored the need to amend Section 150 of the Local Government Code, a provision which has deprived LGUs of much deserved revenues.
“We have a pending bill which seeks to amend the situs of taxation provision in the Local Government Code. Essentially, we want businesses to pay their local taxes in municipalities where the businesses operate, instead of where their main offices are located. LGUs in effect should have a bigger share in the revenue from these firms,” explained Escudero.
Escudero has been pushing for the amendment since 2012, when he filed Senate Bill No. 105 which seeks to give a 100-percent tax share to LGUs so long as such sales or transactions occur in the LGU concerned./MP