POSTSCRIPT / September 30, 2012 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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A blog isn’t more sacred than the printed page

ARAY!: After I said here that as we in print and broadcast media are covered by the strictures of the libel law, the same limitations should apply to bloggers and netizens of cyberspace, some readers asked why I was in favor of the new Cybercrime Prevention Act.

Huh? This is the kind of illogic that makes us cry.

Then when I added in Postscript that “the essence of freedom is best appreciated within the defining frame of its limitations,” I sank deeper in the esteem of social media practitioners breathing the fresh air of freedom in outer space.

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REITERATION: So now I feel the need to restate some of my thoughts on RA 10175, especially as it applies to malicious defamation spreading like a virus in the Internet:

I am for press freedom as guaranteed in the Constitution. But I see the need for regulating media practices, particularly as they infringe on a subject-person’s right to protect his name and honor.

A blog or a posting in the Internet is not any more sacred than the printed page. It does not vest more rights to the blogger than to the plodding workers in the traditional media.

In the same way that reporters, columnists and authors have their bylines, all persons reporting or posting comments in cyberspace must be properly identified. It is unfair to have the targets of defamation identified while the offenders hide behind aliases and cryptic usernames.

RA 10175 is a poorly thought out, sloppily written and legally defective law. It is right that it is now being challenged in court.

Meting out penalty for cyber libel one degree higher than for libel in the traditional media is most unfair. Equal protection must be guaranteed.

To “like” on Facebook or retweet on Twitter is not libelous per se. For an act to be libelous, all the elements of libel, including malice, must be present.

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IT’S A DRAW: The raging market war between telco giants Globe and Smart is made more interesting by a vicious advertising campaign on the side and the release of the last comparative grading of their systems and service by the National Telecommunications Commission.

As a post-paid user of both Globe and Smart, I see two things influencing consumer decisions: the sensitizing effects of Smart’s advertising against Globe, and the cold benchmark ratings announced by the NTC for the second quarter of this year.

With that, I would make a split call: (1) Smart is the winner in the perception game profiting from its relentless tri-media attacks on Globe without naming it, and (2) The NTC quality tests ended in a draw because most of the results were not definitive.

The mobile user has been exposed, fairly or unfairly, to the sensitizing effects of negative advertising. He is also likely to be unaware that the NTC graded Globe with only half of its systems modernization in place versus the total completion of Smart’s upgrading.

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COMPARISON: Due to rising complaints about drop calls and undelivered text messages, the NTC conducted network benchmark tests comparing the grade of service and overall signal quality of the two telcos in 16 cities in Metro Manila.

Using set standards, the NTC conducted network drive tests using prepaid SIMs of both telcos with a sample size of over 3,000 mobile test calls.

At the time of the study, Smart was supposed to be operating on its upgraded network as promised in its press release that its upgrade will be operational by mid-2012. On the other hand, Globe was still using its legacy network undergoing modernization due for completion in the first quarter next year.

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CATEGORIES: The NTC tests used four benchmark categories:

First is the Grade of Service (GoS) or Call Setup Failure Rate (CSFR). With the NTC standard for GoS and CSFR set at 4 percent, Globe posted a nearly identical 4.45 percent while Smart registered 9.50 percent. Globe had a 95.55-percent call success rate, getting more calls connected even at first attempt.

Second is the Drop Call Rate, a common experience of mobile phone users. The NTC standard was 2 percent. Globe and Smart registered 1.6 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively. There is statistically not much of a difference, casting doubts on the validity of drop-call advertising.

Third is the Average Signal Quality measuring the network signal that subscribers get on their devices. The NTC set a minimum acceptable range of 0-4, where the closer to zero would be the better rate. Both Globe and Smart performed at parity, registering above 0.50. On the Average Receive Signal Level, both telcos failed to meet the standard with a minimum acceptable range of -85 dBm.

Fourth is the Call Set Up Time measuring how fast domestic calls get connected from one number to the other. Globe’s legacy network performed at parity with 11.9 seconds versus Smart’s upgraded network at 11.74 seconds.

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FINAL TEST: This user finds significant that Globe’s half-upgraded legacy network performed at the same level as Smart’s fully-upgraded billion-peso network in terms of the four benchmark categories.

The final test will probably be that one after the first quarter next year when Globe and Smart will have their systems upgrading completed.

Globe Telecom President and CEO Ernest Cu commented on the NTC benchmark results: “It is now clear who is telling the truth and really giving good service even with just our legacy network. As soon as we fully fire up our brand-new network, our subscribers and the entire nation will enjoy a whole new mobile experience that is once again pioneered by Globe.”

But meantime, Globe will have to contend with the perception engendered by the sensitizing effects of Smart’s ads about Globe’s supposed overwhelming number of drop calls and undelivered text messages (which the NTC tests disproved).

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 30, 2012)

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