.The invitation came via Twitter and Facebook, which was the norm but to a Congressional Public Hearing? In a way it was appropriate because it was the Congressional Public Hearing on Broadband. And in a way it was also appropriate that the hearing was held at Meridian International (MINT) Business, Arts and Technology College at McKinley Hill – the more newlyt developed hubs in Metropolitan Manila. And it was also appropriate and at the same time ironic that there was no free public wifi in the place. This sort of underscores the importance of the the public hearing held last Saturday.
The hearing was chaired by Rep Sigfrido Tinga and the panel was composed of Rep Antonio Tinio, Rep Ana York Bondoc, and Rep Mong Palatino. Also present were the Chairman (?) and people from the National Telecommunication Commission. And of course there were the persons who represented the Telecommunication Companies and Internet Service Providers.
During that afternoon there were a number of things talked about.
The recent and not so recent story about sky rocketing phone/data plan bills were true and apparently affected a number of people. From Congressmen who were charged from 17,000 to 100,000 thousand pesos. Congresswoman Bondoc had to call to the telco questioning her bill. The bill was cancelled. A friend suffered the same fate – and the Telco cancelled the bill only after the family threatened to remove the telcos communication tower from their land. Other people were less fortunate and had to pay up. The culprit in this case was the setting of the Smart Phones. The NTC s response and it was announced during the hearing was to require all sellers of Smart Phones to deactivate the auto-connect setting. People also complained of customer service of Telcos regarding this issue. Telcos representatives were silent.
Value Added Service or Utility?
Also during the hearing the question whether broadband service, both mobile and fixed, was a utility or a value added service was tackled. It was pointed out that because the Internet like a river or perhaps a highway was used by Filipinos, like the rest of the world, (i) to communicate, (ii) to conduct business, (iii) to teach, (iv) to educate and (v) to entertain, that it was a utility. And it was further pointed out that one had to be first connected to do this things and this was the utility part of it. The rest were value added. The Telcos Representatives were silent.
The Telcos Business Model, Booking and Resources
The hearing also drifted unto the business model applied to broadband. It was described as similar to that of an Insurance Company’s model – which assumes that all policy holders wont be going to Heaven at the same time. Broadband or Internet service should be allocated properly otherwise there would be a shortage of supply. Resource sharing and wise use of resources was suggested by several concerned citizens in attendance. Among them was “Father of Philippine Internet” Dr. William “Bill” Torres who shared his experience with Mozcom and offered suggestions on how to remedy the situation and not to make it worse. One interesting story of Mr Torres was how they were able to make a Lubang Island community connected [Source]. Meanwhile. the Telcos Representatives were silent.
With the onset of cheaper Smart phones this year broadband resources becomes highly critical to the survival of the broadband ecosystem. The word itself, ecosystem, is interesting not only because it used by the Telcos to describe their system but because the original definition of an ecosystem – is a system made up biological and non-biological elements occupying a space that interacts and are interelated to one another, and can be called a community. Now the particular ecosystem envisioned and promoted by Telcos depends on balance. The balance between the inhabitants and resources. When the number of inhabitants become so big that it goes over what the system can supply – carrying capacity – the system collapses. With the onslaught of the new smart phones without proper use and allocation of resources the system goes Kaput in a very major and deadly way.
Truth in Advertising
It was also observed that Telcos generally like to hype and puff their service to consumers. Often enticing customers with advertorials and marketing ploys but often the picture that is promoted fail to leave up to its image. Again. the Telcos Representatives were silent.
The End of the Hearing
Near the end of the afternoon and as the room was to be used for another activity the hearing was concluded. After all the summaries and parting words were said a couple of important things were announced.
First, All inputs would be looked at and taken in consideration when the draft bill would be made.
Second, The draft bill will be available on-line.
Third, Input to the draft bill can be done on-line.
In the end, the Telcos Representatives were as talkative as stones in the Kalahari Desert under the Noon time Sun.
Not surprising really, but also a bit disappointing since the Telcos seem to refuse even to engage in a discussion. Does this mean that they are not in the mood or of that opinion that dialogue and discussion is not good ? Something that goes against the grain of what they are doing online right now or is this just for sales and pr? Whatever it is … it is unwise.