THE House of Representatives approved on third and final reading a measure that will provide internet access in any part of the country.
The House Bill No. 8910 or the Open Access in Data Transmission Act got the support of the lawmakers unanimously.
Called it a landmark legislation, principal sponsor and one of the authors Tarlac Rep. Victor Yap said the bill intends to provide affordable and reliable internet connectivity in every local community, barangay, sitio, poblacion, or purok.
It envisions easy internet accessibility for each and every Filipino by updating analogue-era laws designed for telephone landlines and radio broadcasting to the present wave of handheld internet connectivity and data transmission.
Records showed that only 57 percent of Filipino households or 12.2 million Filipino families have access to the internet and the major cause of this low usage is the lack of internet network infrastructure in the country.
Existing but outdated laws require all internet service providers (ISPs) to obtain a legislative franchise from Congress, a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) and a Provisional Authority (PA) from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) in order to build and operate their own network.
As a result, small ISPs cannot legally construct their own network infrastructure and are dependent upon big telecommunication companies (Telcos) holding legislative franchises that may charge exorbitant rates and unilaterally dictate where network infrastructures are built and located.
Meanwhile, the NTC is mandated to regulate the telecommunications industry in the interest of the public consumer of telecommunications services, however has been sleeping at the wheel resulting in the underdevelopment of the internet service industry especially outside the metropolitan areas leaving behind most Filipinos and furthering the digital divide.
The Open Access bill introduces a policy and regulatory framework for the provision and regulation of internet services. It aims to generate infrastructure development by lowering the legal barriers to market entry and providing a simple and expeditious administrative registration process for prospective ISPs, promote open access, co-sharing or use of common facilities as network infrastructures, cultivate technologically-neutral innovations, and establish fair, transparent and future-proofed competition policies in the industry.
“The limitations on our existing data network infrastructure continue to hinder the data services in the country. The duopoly of Globe and PLDT has stifled the growth of data transmission service. The Filipino people have been bearing with the slow and expensive internet service that these Telco giants provide. Even with the entry of DITO, internet service providers in rural areas continue to be limited in numbers,” Yap stressed.
On numerous occasions, President Rodrigo Duterte himself expressed his lament on the poor internet service in the country.
As such, House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, joined by 56 other Representatives co-authored the bill indicating the strong call for better internet accessibility.
“Our people deserve no less than the best service from the Telcos. If our current Telcos cannot provide improved data transmission service and remain only promises, then perhaps we should start looking for alternatives elsewhere and open the telecommunications industry to other more deserving players.” Yap asserted.
In the previous 17th Congress, the Open Access bill passed third reading in the House of Representatives and was subsequently transmitted to the Senate Committee on Public Services. However, the bill failed to pass the deliberations of the Committee chaired by incumbent Senator Grace Poe.