Press Release
March 21, 2018

Sen. Bam's sponsorship speech for Open Access In Data Transmission Act


Senator Paolo Benigno "Bam" A. Aquino IV
17th Congress, Senate of the Philippines
Sponsorship Speech, March 21, 2018

Good afternoon, Mr. President and esteemed colleagues! Mga kaibigan at mga kababayan, magandang hapon sa ating lahat.

Today, it is an honor to address you, Mr. President and distinguished colleagues, to sponsor another reform to help solve an issue that has been a thorn on the side of many Filipinos for years - and that is, of course, poor internet service.

I stand before you to sponsor Senate Bill No. 1763 under Committee Report No. 306, entitled "An Act Promoting Open Access In Data Transmission, Providing Additional Powers To The National Telecommunications Commission, And For Other Purposes" otherwise known as the "Open Access In Data Transmission Act".

Mr. President, this reform was developed by advocacy groups, passionately trying to solve our internet issue: These are Internet Society, Better Broadband Alliance, and -represented today by Engr. Pierre Tito Galla.

Mr. President, it has been around 4 years since the alarm bells rang on the issue of slow and expensive internet in the Philippines. In 2014, the Philippines' internet speed was found to be lagging behind countries like Laos, Indonesia and Myanmar - this despite having the most expensive internet in the region. Memes popped up on the internet comparing our country's turtle internet speed with our quicker neighbors, and netizens roared with both frustration and dark comedy.

As then chairman of the committee on trade, commerce and entrepreneurship, we called for several public investigations in aid of legislation, to pinpoint barriers to faster internet and to find solutions. But we soon realized that, like our internet, the solutions to this problem are a slow grind to the finish line.

While we worked on quick fixes, like clamping down on misleading advertising, brokering the IP Peering agreement, and encouraging the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to come out with guidelines on minimum internet speeds and to conduct speed testing around the country - the improvements to our internet services were incremental at best.

To truly enhance internet speed and services in the Philippines, we needed to increase competition in the telecommunications industry and improve our local internet infrastructure. But again, like our internet issue, these solutions would take time and patience, alongside the hard work of various stakeholders.

Doing our part as lawmakers, we passed the landmark Philippine Competition Act in the hopes of encouraging healthy competition in the telecommunications sector, and other industries in the country.

We created the Department of Information and Communications Technology, that has now drafted a National Broadband Plan, our country's roadmap to faster internet.

And just last year, now as the chairman for the committee on science and technology, we passed Republic Act No. 10929, otherwise known as the Free Internet in Public Places Act, which will provide free internet in public schools, airports and sea ports, parks and museums. The law also includes a provision to cut red tape for internet infrastructure development.

And now, Mr. President, we ask for your support on another measure to add to the growing number of solutions to our internet issues. We ask this august chamber to support the passage of the Open Access In Data Transmission Bill.

Like the Competition Law, this reform pushes for more players and healthier competition into different levels of the telecoms arena. While the face of internet services tend to be companies that sell directly to consumers and end users, there are actually other layers to this industry unknown to most Filipinos -- the core or backbone network, the international gateway or landing, the middle mile and the last mile.

There are companies who provide connection to regional distribution networks; there are others who provide an interface to send and receive data traffic between countries' domestic network facilities; there is also a segment that connects retailers of internet service to the main line; and finally, there is a segment that provides internet access straight to the devices of end-users.

We need to dispel the idea that a single company or only a limited few can provide services in all of these four segments. Different companies in different segments should be encouraged to enter our market, and interconnect so we can enjoy improved internet services.

The Open Access In Data Transmission Bill opens up all of these layers, including that of the internet providers for end users, to more players in the hopes of improving internet speed and quality while driving prices down. This is achieved by removing barriers to entry, such as the certificate of public convenience, the provisional authority, and the even some congressional requirements for entering the data transmission industry.

This reform will also prohibit anti-competitive practices, such as the refusal to plug and play, paid prioritization, throttling, refusal to give information, and anti-competitive cross subsidization, hopefully creating an environment conducive to competition and new entry players.

Lastly, the reform espouses technological neutrality or tech-neutrality in all of our rules and regulations for the implementation of this Act. This means that the provisions of this law shall apply to future technologies as well, and will be not limited to specific technological solutions available today.

Mr. President, it's been almost 4 years since the internet issue of slow and expensive internet entered the consciousness of the Philippine Senate. And while there is no quick-fix, we must continue working and grinding out reforms in hopes that this amalgam of legal remedies can finally solve the Philippine internet issue, once and for all.

Para sa mga estudyanteng nagre-research at gumagawa ng thesis na palapit ng palapit ang deadline;
Para sa mga negosyanteng Pinoy na nakikipag-usap sa international client o di kaya ay nagbebenta online;
Para sa maraming naghahanap ng kabuhayan at trabaho sa iba't ibang website;
Para sa mga batang sabik makipag-video-call sa magulang nila sa ibang bansa;
Para sa bawat Pilipino na matagal nang nagrereklamo sa mabagal na internet...
Ipasa po natin ang Open Access In Data Transmission Act!

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