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House OKs bill on improved connectivity

The House of Representatives passed a bill promoting open access in data transmission through fair and open competition*

The measure promoting open access in data transmission through fair and open competition earned overwhelming approval from the House of Representatives Wednesday.

Two hundred lawmakers voted in favor of House Bill 8910, or the proposed Open Access in Data Transmission Act, which aims to establish a strong and independent regulatory system and body to ensure fair competition in the data transmission industry.

The bill shall require interconnection among data transmission participants to avoid dominance by a single player or by a group of data providers.

Committee on Information and Communications Technology chair and bill main author, Tarlac Rep. Victor Yap, emphasized the need for Internet connectivity to be “available, reliable and significantly affordable to every local community or barangay”.

The bill envisions easy Internet accessibility for all Filipinos by updating analog-era laws designed for telephone landlines and radio broadcasting to the present wave of handheld connectivity and data transmission.

“The limitations on our existing data network infrastructure continue to hinder the data services in the country. The duopoly of Globe and PLDT has stifled the growth of data transmission services. The Filipino people have been bearing with the slow and expensive Internet service that these telecommunications giants provide. Even with the entry of DITO, Internet service providers in rural areas continue to be limited in numbers,” he said during the plenary session.

Yap said existing but outdated laws require all Internet service providers (ISPs) to obtain a legislative franchise from Congress, a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, and a Provisional Authority from the National Telecommunications Commission in order to build and operate their own network.

“As a result, small ISPs cannot legally construct their own network infrastructure and are dependent upon big telecommunication companies holding legislative franchises that may charge exorbitant rates and unilaterally dictate where network infrastructures are built and located,” he said.

Under the bill, the NTC shall be mandated to maximize the utilization of radio resources in the allocation and assignment of such finite resources in the transmission of data by ensuring that is made available for the use of all registered data transmission industry participants.

The NTC shall also be mandated to require all data transmission industry participants and public telecommunications entities providing data transmission services, to comply with the prescribed performance standards and shall impose penalties for failure to comply with such performance standards.

It ensures fair competition by mandating that at any given layer, there should be at least two significant providers.

The bill proposes to impose a fine of P300,000 to P5 million for every day of violation, per prescribed performance standards, on any data transmission industry participant that fails to substantially comply with the minimum service requirement.

If the entity fails to comply with the prescribed performance standards for three consecutive years, it shall be removed, subject to due process, from the registry of registered data transmission industry participants and shall be prohibited from rendering data transmission services.

It prohibits the refusal to plug and play, paid prioritization, throttling, and vertical ownership.*PNA

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January 2022

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