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Poe seeks Smart franchise extension

By: - Reporter / @TarraINQ
/ 06:23 PM March 01, 2017
poe transportation

Senator Grace Poe. PHOTO FROM POE’S FACEBOOK PAGE

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Grace Poe brought to the Senate floor, on Wednesday, a measure seeking to extend the legislative franchise for Smart Telecommunications Inc. by another 25 years, even as she pointed out its problematic service.

At the regular session Wednesday afternoon, Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services, recommended the approval of House Bill No. 4637, the House version of the franchise renewal, with consideration of its counterpart Senate Bill No.1302.

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As Smart’s franchise is set to expire  by March 27, Congress has only two weeks to approve the bill before going on break.

The report of Poe’s committee secured the signature of 15 senators amending for extension purposes Republic Act No. 7294, which had granted Smart a 25-year legislative franchise in 1992.

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Among the committee’s amendments was a provision mandating smart to “give priority to improving and extending its services in areas not yet served, and in hazard- and typhoon-prone areas that shall be determined by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in coordination with the National Telecommunications Commission.”

New provisions also tasked the telecommunications giant, which commands an estimated 56 million subscribers nationwide, “to improve and upgrade its equipment, facilities and services” to ensure compliance with the Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act,” of which Poe was principal sponsor.

The law requires mobile service providers “to send out free text alerts in the event of any impending natural disaster and prescribes penalties for non-compliance.”

Poe, however, expressed regrets that service issues were not discussed during committee hearings as they were outside the scope of discussions on the legislative franchise.

“How I wish we could accommodate penalties for lousy service in franchises.How I wish we could outlaw dropped calls, fine slow Internet, and ban false advertising. How I wish we could insert provisions which punish overbilling, reinstate vanishing loads, and sanction weak signals,” said Poe.

“But unfortunately these do not fall within the ambit of a legislative franchise. It is a function of regulation, and today these are proof of failed or feeble regulation,” she said.

She vowed to discuss these under a separate legislation.  SFM

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TAGS: Business, franchise, Grace Poe, Legislation, legislative franchise, Philippine Congress, public franchise, Republic Act No. 7294, Senate, Smart Telecommunications, telecommunications companies, telecommunications franchise
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