Senate probes PH Internet speeds, prices

Posted at 05/07/14 10:31 AM


MANILA - The world's Internet-dependent population is growing by leaps and bounds. But statistics show the Philippines' Internet connection is barely keeping up.

The Philippines ranks 155th among 190 countries in terms of Internet speed, according to an infographic posted by ASEAN DNA. The country is also the slowest among members of the Association for Southeast Asian nations, with average Internet speed of 3.6 mbps compared to the 12.4 mbps regional average.

Massachusetts-based Akamai Technologies Inc., however, said the Philippines' average peak internet connection speed is faster than that of China and several countries in the Asia-Pacific region but its low use of broadband technology -- as well as high costs for internet users compared to other countries -- mean slow average connection speeds for consumers.

Senator Bam Aquino is now calling for a probe into why Internet providers don't seem to be delivering speedy connections at fair prices. He said improving Internet connection in the country is crucial to improving the country's competitiveness ahead of the ASEAN economic integration in 2015.

Speaking to ANC Headstart, Aquino said there are a number of factors that affect Internet speed in the country including the archipelagic nature of the country and the infrastructure of local telcos.

"As the selfie capital of the world, in a country where people are crazy about social media, it is really not acceptable that we are really the slowest...If we are the slowest, we go into the question of why we are the slowest and what we can do to improve," he said.

He said that more than just selfies, the Internet is useful for trade and transactions, finding jobs and connecting with loved ones.

Aquino said the Philippines currently ranks fifth in the Asean in terms of Internet access, with about 32%-36% of Filipinos being able to go online.

However, he noted that Internet pricing in the Philippines is the 7th highest in the region.

He said the average monthly cost per Megabit per second in the Philippines is at P1,155, which is more expensive than the P107 monthly cost per mbps in Thailand.

"We are paying ten times more than Thailand for our Internet service," he said.

Aquino said Internet pricing in the Philippines is "technically a gray area" since it is considered a value-added service.

"It's currently not within realm of what [National Telecommunications Commission] regulates. NTC can regulate on texts and calls," he said.

He said the Senate investigation should focus on how to improve Internet access, speed and pricing in the Philippines by involving all stakeholders.

"I would really consider that we have a group just dedicated to focus on access price and quality. Right now, it is in the Department of Science and Technology. We have an undersecretary focused on that. We also have the NTC. We have the Department of Trade and Industry because there are consumer protection issues. Sabog-sabog siya so I support that we put these all together and have a department that corresponds to the information age we have right now," he said.

For his part, Globe vice-president for broadband products Francisco Claravall defended the country's Internet speeds, saying the country is still better than Indonesia, Vietnam and India based on the Akamai report.

He said the country's infrastructure requirement is bigger than other countries, which drives Internet costs up.

"On the cost, as you know, delivering service is about economics. We don't have the same scale as some of these countries when you talk about delivering services in Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia. ...You have to cover how many cities and islands so the amount of infrastructure that you put in is way, way different," he said.

He also said 60%-70% of Internet content accessed in the Philippines is still US bound.

Claravall said 3G access is available in more than 90% of the country while faster Internet speeds via 4G LTE is still "a work in progress."