Senate committee to seek update on telco upgrades
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate public services committee will press for answers during Monday’s public hearing on poor phone and internet services provided by the country’s two major telecommunication companies, as well as the preparations of a third provider, Dito Telecommunity Corp., whose franchise application is also on the table.
Sen. Grace Poe, the panel chair, said she would ask for a report from PLDT, Globe and Dito on their compliance with the government’s directive to accelerate the building of cell towers, including in far-flung areas, to improve service, especially in work-from-home and distance learning arrangements during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I will ask them how many have they built so far this year? Is this enough as there’s still a shortfall of 50,000 cell towers that are needed for satisfactory service?” Poe said in a statement on Sunday.
Poe noted that under the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act, or Bayanihan 2, the government waived several permit requirements to allow the telcos to hasten the construction of cell towers.
She said her panel would also look into Dito’s application for a 25-year franchise.
The committee “will ask for an update on the earlier commitment of Dito to deliver a minimum internet speed of 27 Mbps and to provide services to certain unserved and underserved areas in the country,” Poe said.
“We want any telco company to succeed in providing good service because that will benefit Filipinos in their work or study. But if they are unable to do that, we will not be true to our responsibility if we give them a franchise,” she warned.
The China-backed Dito, formerly known as Mislatel, was earlier picked by the Duterte administration as the third telecommunication provider to break the PLDT and Globe duopoly. Its commercial rollout is expected in March 2021.
In August, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading the bill granting Dito a 25-year franchise. But the telco will need the Senate’s concurrence for the franchise bill to be passed into law.
In July, President Rodrigo Duterte devoted part of his address to a joint session of Congress to scolding the two telcos for lousy service, threatening them with closure and “expropriation” of their assets if they failed to improve their service by the end of 2020.
The proponent lawmakers said Dito’s franchise renewal would allow the company to complete its rollout “to be able to establish and install efficient and effective telecommunications system for better and cheaper telecommunications services nationwide.”
According to the Speedtest Global Index by Ookla, the Philippines ranked 111th in the world in mobile internet speed and 107th in fixed broadband as of October. The survey listed a total of 139 countries.
By contrast, Thailand ranked 59th in mobile internet speed and fifth in fixed broadband, while Malaysia ranked 84th in mobile internet speed and 43rd in fixed broadband.
Indonesia fared a little worse than the Philippines, ranking 121st in mobile internet speed and 115th in fixed broadband, according to the index.
There are more than 70 million internet users in the Philippines, but almost a third have no access to mobile internet, compared to the 12 percent average among Southeast Asian countries, Poe said.
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