Netizens reject Philippine broadband cap

Filipino netizens are up in arms over a draft memorandum-circular of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) imposing caps on broadband internet services.

Netizens’ opening salvo: Want to poke the telcos? Want to superpoke the NTC? Sign your name now to the netizens’ petition against the broadband cap, for #betterinternet

What irks us most is that the NTC is swallowing the warped logic of the very telecommunications companies and internet service providers which the agency should be regulating and checking.

Philippines: Netizens say no to new internet rules. Drawing from

Elsewhere, a lawyer reminds us of other dangerous repercussions of the NTC’s broadband cap caper, such as hindering the people’s right to information.

In the House of Representatives, leaders of Congress have yet to consider House Resolution 407 filed by blogger-turned-legislator Mong Palatino which seeks an investigation into the substandard broadband internet services in the country.

The NTC misses the entire point of the problematic broadband internet connections in the Philippines: They are slow, unreliable and expensive compared to other countries in the region. But the NTC would not know this because the agency has not, up to now, sat down, studied and resolved to define what broadband internet really is.

Thus, all sorts of broadband internet products and services are being sold and pushed across the Philippines, with consumers and end-users getting substandard services.  No one is checking the claims of these peddlers of so-called broadband internet.

Many Filipinos are already familiar with broadband services. In fact, we are more familiar with how to make do with what’s available, how to tweak the connections, how many prayers to say so that when we arrive at the office or at home, there’s reliable service at tolerable speeds. We are actually unimpressed with the huge claims of telcos and ISPs regarding 3G, 3.5G, 4G and WIMAX because in reality, we do not get what we pay for and the times we enjoy the minimum global standard speeds of these internet connection technologies are mostly exceptions, subject to many factors like having close relations with people connected to telcos and ISPs and strongly-worded demands directed at their executives.

Many foreigners and returning OFWs and Filipino expats are always surprised by the slow speed of broadband internet. We always join them in wailing and railing over “broadband speeds” that are sometimes only a tad better than the old, reliable dial-up connections.

In two recent visits to Hong Kong, I was able to get – no questions asked, no silly drills to undergo – unlimited GPRS/EDGE service on my smartphone for just HK$68/month.  The speed was comparable to the 3G or 3.5G offering of Philippine telcos – I was able to use the same SIM for my phone and on an unlocked dongle for basic surfing on my netbook.

And we have yet to talk about pricing yet and many conditions the companies impose on subscribers. Pricing is so whimsical, arbitrary and counter-productive.

For instance, the two biggest telcos currently peddle mobile broadband SIM-only subscriptions for iPad subscribers at P999/month so they could get “bottomless” GPRS, EDGE, 3G or 3.5G. The same unlimited data using the same infrastructure however is sold at P1,200/month if tied with a prepaid or postpaid mobile service account.

The price of P1,200 for unlimited mobile broadband applies across all handsets, regardless of the fact that some only have GPRS/EDGE, not even 3G. No telco has come forward to offer GPRS/EDGE only accounts at a lower rate. We wonder why.  Are they just lazy or do they just want to gouge consumers?

Three telcos have so far rolled out their versions of WIMAX, with blessings from the NTC and the DTI. But while they may be using WIMAX technology and devices, these telcos could only give us 3.5G speeds!

We have to thank the Filipinos’ sense of “abilidad” for enduring and making the best out of this sordid broadband situation for the longest time, as well as doses of patience. We have sat on this problem, blogged about it, fired off countless complaints via email and web forums, while at the same time doing and achieving great things on the web like making the Philippines a respected social media capital in Asia, one of the biggest Facebook-using countries, and a “bibo kid” and key influencer on Twitter, among others.

Imagine what netizens and internet-dependent companies (especially startups) and developers would be able to do if we had #betterinternet. Just imagine.