I WAS shocked to hear of the death yesterday of Roy Golez, former national security adviser, TOYM awardee, UP MBA valedictorian, and top congressman from Parañaque. Nakababahala ang kanyang biglang pagpanaw.
Having known Roy since the Marcos martial law years, I was familiar with how his analytical mind honed at UP and Annapolis worked. I had gained valuable insights listening to him discuss geopolitics and security matters.
He was a consistent and well-reasoned critic of President Duterte’s handling of China/West Philippine Sea issues. He scored points, like he did in the championship boxing ring at the US naval academy, because he knew the game. It was a pity Malacañang did not listen to him.
His passing is a great loss, especially at this time when the country is being sold piecemeal down the Yangtze River! We’ll miss Roy Golez, a true patriot!
• Need to hike wi-fi speed, lower rates
MANY times, after texting a colleague that I was already leaving Quezon City for our meeting in Makati, I would arrive an hour later after battling traffic — and he still had not received my short message.
When the speed of EDSA solid-state traffic is faster than electronic messaging, something must be seriously wrong somewhere. Everybody is still looking for an acceptable solution.
Slow transmission is just one of many complaints of the 67 million Internet users in this archipelago of some 7,000 islands. The twin problem of low speed is the high service cost to consumers, but how do we boost speed while reducing the rates?
Available statistics show that the current average Philippine connection speed of 5.5 Mbps is the slowest in the region — compared to South Korea, 28.6; Hong Kong, 21.9; Singapore, 20.3; Japan, 20.3; Taiwan, 16.9; Thailand, 16; New Zealand, 14.7; Australia, 11.1; Vietnam, 9.5; Malaysia, 8.9; Sri Lanka, 8.5; China, 7.6; Indonesia, 7.2; and India, 6.5.
(Mbps is short for megabits per second – a measure of network transmission or data transfer speed. A megabit is equal to one million bits.)
Internet World Stats reports that South Korea has the fastest average speed in the world with its 28.6 Mbps, while Paraguay (No. 148) has the slowest at 1.4 Mbps. The Philippines is No. 100.
Despite its slow and expensive telco services, the Philippines has climbed by three notches to No. 12 worldwide in its number of Internet users. Last year, it was No. 15 with 54 million users for a penetration rate of 52 percent of the population.
Citing IWS ranking of the top 20 countries with the biggest number of Internet users, Makati City Rep. Luis Campos Jr. said some 67 million Filipinos are now browsing the web, for a 63-percent penetration of the 106-million population.
Campos, a deputy minority leader, has been pressing passage of House Bill 5337, which seeks to categorize broadband or high-speed Internet access as a “basic telecommunications service” subject to direct state regulatory supervision.
He explained: “We have to pigeon-hole broadband as a basic service to assure Filipinos superior Internet services and faster connection speeds countrywide.”
Chinese tech magnate Jack Ma said in a recent visit he was not happy (“It’s not good!”) with the Philippines’ Internet connection speed, which has been rated the slowest in Asia Pacific by Akamai Technologies Inc.’s “State of the Internet Report.”
Campos said that voice call is the only basic service within the jurisdiction and regulatory powers of the government under the 23-year-old Public Telecommunications Policy Law.
Broadband and other modes of telecommunications that came after the enactment of the law in 1995 are “value-added services.” He said this tag places them beyond the reach of state regulators when mandating minimum standards and improvements.
Under Campos’ bill, once broadband is classified as a basic service, the National Telecommunications Commission would have the power to compel suppliers to upgrade their networks so they could deliver rising connection speeds within fixed deadlines.
Otherwise, he said, they would face stiff regulatory penalties, including hefty administrative fines for every instance of non-compliance.
The bill would also grant NTC and its officers immunity from lawsuits with respect to directives they may issue to ensure the performance of time-bound Internet service upgrades.
• Solon open to telcos with foreign equity
CONGRESSMAN Campos said he favored the liberalization of the telecommunications sector, including the entry of more telcos to spur competition and help improve service.
“The greater the number of players effectively competing, the better,” he said, adding that “strong competition could help drive the rollout of highly advanced networks and ensure that consumers get the best services at the lowest possible prices.”
Replying to our question on foreign equity, Campos said: “Substantial foreign equity in a third, fourth, fifth or sixth telco is a non-issue because the 1987 Constitution limits foreign interest in public utilities (such as a telco) to up to 40 percent only anyway.”
He added that the country’s two dominant players – PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom Inc. – already have substantial foreign equity owners or partners.
Campos said: “Both First Pacific Co. Ltd. of Hong Kong and NTT DOCOMO Inc., the dominant mobile phone operator in Japan, already have substantial equities in PLDT. Singapore Telecommunications Ltd., the largest mobile network operator in Singapore, also already has a substantial stake in Globe.”
As to the security aspects of a third telco possibly dominated by foreigners, Campos said: “Potential security risks are always there, but these risks can and should be managed by strong regulators.
“The imaginable security risks, especially with respect to possible personal data privacy breaches, may be greater and far more imminent coming from the vast private technology infrastructure operators and data collectors overseas (such as Google Inc. and Facebook Inc., among others).”