NTC: Internet service now 100% faster due to efforts to cut red tape

Local Internet service is now at least 100 percent faster than previous years amid the government’s efforts to cut red tape in the telecommunication sector. 

The National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) hopes to continue this momentum by pushing for stiffer penalties erring telecommunication companies (telcos) and more government spending in infrastructures networks as the country’s internet speed still trails behind to that of its Asian neighbors. 

Citing the result of the speed test done by Ookla, he said the local fixed download speed rose from 7.9 megabits per second (Mbps) on July 2016 to 28.69 Mps as of last month or an increase of 262.70 percent. 

There was also a similar trend for mobile download speed which rose to 148.52 percent from 7.44 Mps in July 2016 to 18.49 Mbps. 

Cordoba said Ookla is a third party company, which conduct regular internet speed test, which is recognized worldwide. 

Average performance

But even with the said improvement, the country only ranked 32nd in terms of speed for fixed broad band and 34th for mobile broadband. 

The said rankings, which included 50 countries, was topped by the likes of South Korea, United Arab Emirates, and China for mobile broadband, as well as Singapore, Thailand, and South Korea for fixed broadband. 

A fact recognized by Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque that the country’s ranking remains unacceptable. 

“I think from the point of view of the President and the public, No. 34 in Asia is still not ideal and probably many will agree this is not acceptable,” Roque said. 

Government spending

Cordoba attributed the trend to several factors, which included the lack of government spending for network infrastructures. 

Unlike in the Philippines, where the construction of such infrastructures are private sector-driven, in countries like South Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand, he said, it is the government which spends for it. 

In South Korea alone, its government spent US$24 billion, Cordoba said.

The NTC official hopes this will finally be addressed with the implementation of the national broadband project of the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT), which has an allocated budget of P6 billion.

“In many other countries, the government is putting up the infrastructure because for every 2 percent increase in broadband penetration and speed is it translate a big impact on their GDP (gross domestic product). This was recognized by the President,” Cordoba said. 

Based from its estimate, NTC said the government will need to spend at least P18 billion to provide reliable broadband service nationwide, but he noted that the initial P6 billion was already a good start. 

Cordoba said the government could even earn from the said infrastructure once it is completed by leasing it to telcos.  

Private sector initiative

The country’s major telcos, SMART Communications and Globe Telecom, have recently increased their spending for infrastructures to improve their services. 

This after President Rodrigo R. Duterte ordered concerned government agencies to address their complaint on the slow approval of their applications for the construction of new telecommunication towers. 

Following the said reform, Cordova reported the number of approved construction permits from Globe increased by whopping 590 percent from an average of 63 per month in 2019 to 371 in the last five months. 

Also on the same period, SMART approved construction permits increased by 190 percent from an average of just 50 per month last year to 95 from July to Nov. 

Currently, Globe already has 10,270 towers nationwide, while SMART has 10,069.   

Cordoba said they hope a similar cutting of red tape for telecommunication towers will also be extended to the laying down of fiber optic tables, which will be crucial in speeding up the country’s internet services.  

He noted they are in talks with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to remove its ban on the placement of fiber optic cables along national roads. 

Fine and competitions 

NTC also blamed the poor telecommunication and internet service to the low fine they are able to impose on erring telcos. 

Currently, he said they only impose a maximum of P200 per violation per day under the Public Service Act of 1936, which he said is too low to serve as a deterrent for telcos. 

“We are asking Congress if this could be increased to P2 million per violation per day,” Cordoba said.  

Furthermore, NTC is also banking on the start of the operation of third telco company next year, DITO Telecommunity to further boost competition among telcos, which will compel SMART and Globe to further improve their services and rates.

“DITO is very aggressive so if you notice SMART and Globe have really increased their spending in the past several years because of the entry of a [new] competitor,” Cordoba said. 

Presidential consideration

NTC is set to submit it latest assessment of the services of local telcos to Duterte this month. 

“We give update to the Office of the Executive Secretary on a monthly basis  through the DICT Secretary,” Cordoba said. 

“So far, based on third party audit and-test, their [telcos] services have registered improvements,” Cordoba said.

To recall, the President threatened to nationalized the telecommunication industry if local telcos will fail to provide better service to their customers before year end.

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