Solon wants telcos penalized for poor mobile-data services

A vice chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations last Sunday urged the leadership of Congress to pass a pending measure slapping stiffer penalties against telecommunications companies (telcos) that fail to improve their services.

In seeking the bill’s approval, Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte of Camarines Sur cited data from London-based crowdsourcing company Open Signal, which showed that the average speed of Smart Communications’s LTE service was only at 10.6 Mbps, and Globe Telecom at only around 8 Mbps. He said both speeds are below the global average of 16.2 Mbps.

“Both telcos averaged 2.5 mbps for 3G download speeds, or barely half the global speed average of 4.4 Mbps,” Villafuerte added.

Villafuerte said the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) should crack the whip on the country’s telcos and order them to upgrade their services in the wake of the latest industry findings that their mobile-data speeds remain among the world’s slowest in the first half of 2017.

Open Signal ranked the Philippines at the bottom 10 of the 75 countries included in its study.

“We do not know why our major telecom firms continue to post disappointing global averages when it comes to broadband speeds when smaller companies and start-ups have the capacity to match the average speeds in other countries at even cheaper prices,” Villafuerte added.

“For the umpteenth time, we are calling on our telcos to shape up and improve their services. The NTC should crack the whip on these telcos that have billions of pesos to pay for their multimedia- advertising campaigns but apparently continue to allocate insufficient funds for their capex buildup to upgrade their facilities and services,” he said.

The lawmaker added this crowdsourced data reflect the actual speeds that consumers get because they are measured from end-user devices rather than from servers.

Meanwhile, Villafuerte’s House Bill 4695 seeks to punish telcos that are guilty of “horrendous” complaints by subscribers, such as poor network signals, overcharging, interrupted or dropped voice calls, vanishing prepaid loads, surge of spam messages and lousy customer-care service.

In his bill, Villafuerte also sought to require the NTC to come up with a comprehensive and efficient system for subscribers to report their complaints of substandard services by their respective Telco providers.

He said HB 4695 seeks to protect the interests of Filipino mobile-service consumers by regulating prices, requiring proper detailed billing of both prepaid and postpaid subscriptions and providing full mobile-number portability.

Other service improvements specified in the bill include offering consumers insurance for their mobile devices, protecting their right to privacy and prohibiting unsolicited commercial advertisements unless allowed by them and that must be sent only during business hours.

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Jovee Marie Dela Cruz is working as a reporter in the country's leading business newspaper the BusinessMirror since 2013. Ms. Dela Cruz, who is in the media industry for 8 years, is currently covering the House of Representatives. She graduated from Universidad De Manila with a degree of Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 2008. At present, Ms. Dela Cruz is finishing up her master's degree in communication at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP).