Slow but expensive net a bane to subscribers

News that negotiations between Australian phone and Internet provider Telstra and San Miguel Corp. had been scuttled was met with a lot of groans. People were hoping that a third player would come in to ease the suffering they always go through with the sloooow but expensive Internet connection at home and in the office. Not only that, some have to go to ridiculous lengths just to get a signal like going up the attic, or looking like a lunatic going around the house waving the phone (or iPad or tablet) to restore the G or LTE from the infuriating E. One buddy residing in the north confessed to us that one time, he was so tempted to “climb up the coconut tree just to get a frigging signal” to email a document for his job application.

Many certainly welcome the suggestion of senatorial candidate Susan “Toots” Ople to legislate a bill that would give subscribers more rights in lights of the very slow and expensive Internet connection in the country today – actually a Bill of Rights for Internet subscribers.

As the lady noted, the Philippines has one of the slowest Internet speeds in the world. Per the reckoning of Ookla, an Internet metrics provider, in the whole of Asia, we’re just a little better than war-torn Afghanistan but slower than Pakistan! Ople says we have the slowest connection rate in the entire Southeast Asia, and ranked 158th out of 190 countries worldwide  with an average speed of 3.54 megabits per second (Mbps). Hong Kong has 77 mbps – which makes it numero uno in the world, followed by Singapore with 65 mbps.

Frustrated much? You’re not alone. “We go all over the country to campaign and the Internet service is so slow but the people especially the plan holders pay the same rate,” she observed in the vernacular. “There should be full disclosure from those offering Internet service where the average time for downloading and uploading files, plus the speed and reliability of service depending on the place where the subscription service is being sold should be indicated,” the senatorial candidate said. Makes sense, because there are places where the claimed speed is much slower to the point that you get dizzy just watching the rainbow colored cursor go round and round as you wait to connect or upload/download.

Try passing through the whole stretch of Edsa (or even from Ayala to Shaw Boulevard) with your data service on and observe how the signal changes from LTE, to 3G, then E -- until suddenly everything goes kaput and you see “No service available” staring at you.

As the former labor undersecretary explained, the concept for the Internet Bill of Rights is similar to the current Bill of Rights policy being followed by airline companies for air passengers. “We can use that as a precedent; we just need to gather all stakeholders to agree on what should constitute a fair use policy for Internet subscribers,” she said.

The lone senatorial candidate of the Nacionalista Party noted that Internet service providers collect the same rates across the country regardless of how reliable or terribly inadequate the service is. “The Bill of Rights would include a full disclosure policy wherein subscribers are told about the speed, capacity, and pocket areas where the service is expected to be extremely spotty, in which case the subscriber should not be charged the full rates that consumers in better-served areas are paying,” the labor advocate said.

“Our overseas Filipino workers rely on Internet service to bridge the distance and remain close to their families. They are frustrated by the lack of reliable service from the Philippine end,” she added. Consumers must be assured that they are getting their money’s worth from the Internet service provided by local telecommunication companies, and authorities have to look into the slow but expensive service people are putting up with.

Even foreign investors are turned off by the slow Internet connection, and we don’t really understand why we also have to pay a premium for such lousy service. Just consider: a regular household spends an average of P1,000 (okay, make that P999) a month for Internet service with speeds of up to 2 – we repeat – 2 mbps. Meantime, some telecommunication companies offer speeds of up to 5 mbps but you have to shell out P2,000 a month for that privilege – but no assurance that the speed is really what you get every time.

Internet use has become a need, not a luxury since a lot of including job hunting and information-sharing on major issues are now done online. “A fast, reliable Internet service would allow more Filipinos to cross the digital divide and become competitive with their peers in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and other parts of the world,” Ople expressed.

To borrow a popular TV series title – “Wish ko lang…”

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