Sen. Grace Poe is doubling down on her challenge to pertinent government agencies and telecommunications companies to get the country’s internet connectivity at least on par with its regional neighbors at a lower cost.
The chairperson of the Senate committee on public services reiterated that this is especially crucial today when being online has become the new normal for most students, employees, and just about anyone in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have so far received the progress reports of the Department of Education (DepEd) and Globe Telecom only, and expect others also to submit ASAP,” said Poe who issued the July 13 deadline for detailed plans on how to improve internet service and coverage across the country.
In a television interview Monday, Poe said she also expected the telcos to inform her committee of how they intend to assist the DepEd in implementing distance learning, “Anong gagawin nila para magkaroon ng tulong sa DepEd ngayong may distance learning?”
The senator said she was also waiting for the guidance and initiatives of the Department of Information and Communications Technology “so that acquiring permits to build a cell tower will take a shorter time,” as mandated by the Anti-Red Tape Act (ARTA).
Poe emphasized that had the ARTA been properly implemented in this regard, it would have helped in boosting the country’s overall internet speed.
“Improving the country’s internet connectivity is a pressing challenge and it is only fitting that we work hand in hand to make this happen,” the senator said.
Poe noted that while there are at last count around 73 million internet users in the Philippines, 30 percent of Filipinos have no access to the internet using a cell phone, compared to the 12-percent average among ASEAN countries. The numbers are even lower for fixed broadband, as a measly four percent of Filipinos are able to subscribe to the service while the regional average stands at 10 percent.
The most recent Speedtest Global Index report had the Philippines sliding down further to 114th place (out of 138 countries) when it comes to mobile connection speed, as it can only average 16.17 mbps compared to the 110.10 mbps of South Korea that sits at number one. It is even worse for fixed broadband, with an average speed of only 23.74 mbps, good for 108th place (out of 174 countries). This lags way behind first-placed Singapore, which averages 208.16 mbps.
Many Filipinos cannot also afford such a service: PLDT’s lowest fiber service plan of 10 mbps is priced at P1,299 monthly, Globe offers 5 mbps at P999 per month while its highest plan of 200 mbps is priced at P4,449. Converge has the cheapest plan at P1,500 for a top speed of 25 mbps, but this is because it has no landline service that comes with the package, unlike its competitors.
“Lubhang nakakalungkot ang mga numerong ito lalo na sa panahon ngayon na kailangang-kailangan ng mga Pinoy ang internet connection para sa mga nagwo-work from home at sa mga estudyante na sasabak na sa distance learning dulot ng pandemya (These numbers are really lamentable especially today when internet connection is crucial for Filipinos working from home or students who will be undergoing distance learning because of the pandemic),” Poe said./Stacy Ang