Filipino regulator proposes fund for universal broadband access

21 Dec 2015

The Philippines’ industry regulator, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), is proposing new legislation to set up a universal access fund (UAF) for broadband services in the country. The Standard newspaper writes that the regulator’s initiative would call on all telecoms operators to contribute 0.25% of gross revenue automatically into the UAF under the draft bill titled ‘An Act Institutionalizing A Universal Access Fund’, to be used to boost the development of broadband infrastructure in underserved areas. Public telecoms entities generated revenue of PHP264 billion (USD5.58 billion) in 2014 – translating into nearly USD14 million had it been converted into the UAF. Further, the new law would require the NTC to transfer 90% of the annual spectrum fees it collects from operators into the fund – which currently runs to around PHP500 million per annum.

Earlier this month, TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate reported that Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Senate committee on ways and means, again urged the government of President Benigno Aquino to do more to prioritise e-commerce and help micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) bolster their global web presence, pointing to the Philippines’ poor showing in a 2015 study by internet performance data provider Ookla, which found that it has the second slowest download speeds among 22 Asian countries profiles, next to Afghanistan. Ookla’s findings suggest that, in the Philippines, average download internet speeds are around 3.64Mbps – significantly below the average broadband speed of 23.30Mbps – leaving the nation languishing at 176th place out of 202 countries across the world.

Earlier this year the NTC introduced new rules governing broadband internet connection speeds. It stipulated that broadband be classified as a data connection speed of at least 256kbps, but some say that this figure should be much higher. For example, interactive media specialist Carlos Nazareno of the group Philippine Flash Actionscripters has argued that, in today’s market, 256kbps is little more than dial-up and as such is inadequate when dealing with the current size of Web pages (e.g. 2MB/3MB). This position has been supported by other key groups in the tech sector, including the Philippine Web Designers Organisation, Game Developer’s Association of the Philippines, Philippine Game Development Community, and the Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance.

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