P1M fine sought for slow internet providers
National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) chief Gamaliel Cordoba on Wednesday urged lawmakers to impose a million peso fine on telecommunication firms that fail to provide faster internet speed to consumers.
During the appropriations hearing of the proposed P3.503-billion budget of the newly created Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and its attached agencies, Cordoba said one of the major stumbling blocks to faster internet speed is the stringent requirements from the local government unit to build more cell sites.
“One of the reasons we’re having problems is that we’re having problems with some of the local government units, some of the LGUs asked for 32 permits before payagan magtayo ng cell sites, while we only give one,” Cordoba told members of the appropriation committee at the House of Representatives.
The NTC is an attached agency of the DICT.
Cordoba said the Public Service Act, a Commonwealth-era law that regulates public service, impose a measly penalty of P200 per day of violation against public service providers that fail to comply with the terms and conditions or regulations of its service.
“In the Public Service Act, the penalty we can impose is only P200 pesos for violation,” Cordoba said.
Cordoba said based on the computations of the National Economic Development Authority, the P200 penalty in the 1936 law if adjusted to current inflation is now worth P1.76 million.
“Lumalabas po na yung P200 is now P1.76 million a day per violation. Kung yan ang i-impose based on the power you can give us, magagamit natin ang imposable penalty na ito,” Cordoba said.
Because of the measly penalty that would be too ridiculous to impose, the NTC has resorted to a “shame campaign” by publishing the names of errant telcos in newspapers, Cordoba said.
“Ang nangyayari, their stocks which are traded internationally and in the Philippine stock market ay bumabagsak tuwing nilalabas namin yun. Kaya napipilitan silang maglabas ng capital expenditure,” Cordoba said.
Cordoba also lamented that the Philippines has not spent a single centavo on telco infrastructure compared to Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Singapore, Myanmar and Afghanistan.
He said other countries invest heavily on internet infrastructure because every 10 percent increase in internet penetration translates to a 1.23 percent increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“In the Philippines, if you would ask us how much the government spends on telco infrastructure, the answer is zero. Countries spending so much in telco infrastructure know it will affect bottomline the GDP,” Cordoba said.
DICT Secretary Rodolfo Salalima told the lawmakers of the need for a comprehensive broadband network plan to connect even the most rural areas.
Salalima said he could not believe the reports which state that the Philippines has one of the slowest internet speed in Asia.
He cited the efficient business process outsourcing services that the country provides using an internet connection.
“All these reports, we need validation… I cannot believe [we are] the slowest in internet speed, given that our BPOs is the number one in the world,” Salalima said.
Asked by Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque how the government could avoid another graft-ridden national broadband network project like the anomalous ZTE deal during the Arroyo administration, Salalima said bidding would be subjected to an electronic portal bidding so other countries could post their bids.
For his part, Negros Oriental Rep. Arnulfo Teves urged the DICT to take on the mandate of regulating social media to weed out dummy accounts that only serve to bash people online.
“Sobra na ang paninira ng tao sa social media. Ang request ko lang, sana i-regulate natin, walang pwedeng fake account,” Teves said.
Salalima said the DICT only has mandate over the technical side such as infrastructure but not over the content on social media.
“Na-control nga ng China social media nila, bakit hindi natin magawa?” Teves asked.
“Kung ayaw may dahilan. I think it’s doable if we really want to do that,” he added.
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