All posts by Pierre Tito Galla

Debunking Errors in a Proposed Philippine Cybersecurity Framework

Myopia.

This is the inescapable conclusion one will have upon reading Francis Domingo’s opinion piece in the November 18, 2013 issue of Philippine Daily Inquirer, “Points to consider in securing Philippine cyberspace”. While Domingo raises a valid concern on the continual growth of the cybersecurity threat, his recommendations fail to address it. Worse, if followed, his recommendations may prove disastrous.

 

The Cybersecurity Threat Continuum 

“More people may decide to engage in cyber-attacks because of the low barriers to entry, anonymity and presence of others involved in similar activities.

“Performing various operations in cyberspace is not difficult because the resources and knowledge required to exploit and disrupt infrastructure are modest compared to the requirements of exploiting other domains of conflict such as land, sea, air and even space.

“Any individual with sufficient technical knowledge and has access to information communication technologies can execute cyber-attacks.”

F. Domingo, Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 18, 2013

Domingo points out correctly that cyberattacks will continue to grow in number, scope, and impact; he correctly points out that performing such attacks are less difficult than physical violence, and puts forward a valid observation that anonymity may be a factor in choosing to perpetrate crime or fraud, destruction and disruption, or enter into conflict via cyberattacks over conventional means.

The possibilities available, however, do not constitute a simple menu of choices. Cybersecurity threats are more accurately depicted in a continuum:

cyber-threat

From left to right, the diagram describes two parallel concepts: first, that of actors — from an individual, through loosely-affiliated groups, to large, structured organizations — and, second, that of level of skill — how the increasing availability of skills and/or skilled manpower can be used as resources to plan, execute, and follow-through on a cyberattack.

From bottom to top, the diagram describes the potential damage that can result, especially from a deliberate cyberattack. For instance, the potential damage that can be caused by a prankster will be less than that of a dupe, as the former may be restrained by conscience while the latter is subject to the will of another person or group, who may feel no such restraint. Likewise, it is understandable that organized groups with larger pools of manpower and skillsets, as well as the drive to gain such skills and employ them, will have higher scales of potential damage than amorphous groups or individuals. It is equally interesting that the individuals and groups moving up the potential damage scale can be classed together into fairly distinct sets of motivations for cybercrime and cyberattack, as shown by the right-hand scale.

The cybersecurity continuum is by no means theoretical. Domingo appears to be familiar with the modes of cyberattack that have been used both locally and abroad, as well as the suspected perpetrators. As such, it is strange that Domingo clings to the notion that cyberattacks have limited impact; perhaps we must first define what a cyberattack is.

 

What is a Cyberattack?

In his opinion, Domingo provided no clear definition of a cyberattack. This vagueness may be the culprit of the erroneous premises upon which his arguments are based.

A US National Research Council’s report defines cyberattacks as “deliberate actions to alter, disrupt, deceive, degrade, or destroy computer systems or networks or the information and/or programs resident in or transiting these systems or networks.”[2] Taking off from this definition, an article “The Law of Cyber-Attack” in the California Law Review proposes that a cyberattack “consists of any action taken to undermine the functions of a computer network for a political or national security purpose.”[3]

These definitions are so broad that they seem to conflate cyberattacks and cybercrime. In crafting the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom (#MCPIF) bill, the group Democracy.Net.PH and other contributors agreed to separate the definitions of cybercrime and cyberattack. The bill defines cyberattack as:

“[A]n attack by a hostile foreign nation-state or violent non-state actor on Philippine critical infrastructure or networks through or using the Internet or information and communications technology.”[4]

The bill includes in the definition of cyberattack as also possibly this:

“[A]n assault on system security that derives from an intelligent threat, i.e., an intelligent act that is a deliberate attempt to evade security services and violate the security policy of a system.”[5]

The definition proposed in the #MCPIF acknowledges the cybersecurity threat continuum. This definition will serve as our basis in clarifying the flaws in Domingo’s op-ed piece.

 

A Cyberattack’s Impact Can be Lethal

“[C]yber-attacks have a limited impact on nation-states because the attacks rely on an electromagnetic spectrum, require man-made technology to function, and do not involve lethal action and physical violence.”

F. Domingo, Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 18, 2013

Domingo cites the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack against Estonia in 2007 and the Stuxnet worm — used supposedly targeting Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facility and whose escape into the wild in 2010 led to its detection — as examples of cyberattacks. The modes exemplified by the Estonia attack[6] and Stuxnet[7] are similar to the Shamoon malware cyberattack on the state-owned oil firm Saudi Aramco[8], the DDoS attacks on US banks in 2012[9], the cyberattack on South Korean media and banking firms just this year[10], and so on.

It appears that Domingo’s position is that there has been no significant injury, loss of life, nor widespread physical damage to infrastructure. Ergo, damage is “limited.”

This is another shortsighted view.

While it is true that few, if at all, have so far been physically hurt by cyberattacks, the impact is nonetheless significant. The “ILOVEYOU” virus outbreak in 2000, a brainchild of one Onel de Guzman[11], a student of AMA Computer College, affected at the time about 45 million computers worldwide[12] and caused an estimated $10 billion dollars in damage[13]. The scale of damage caused by the ILOVEYOU worm, adjusted for inflation, is on a par with the scale of damage caused by Typhoon Yolanda.[14]

The perceived absence of injury to human beings does not render the damage from cyberattack limited; rather, such makes cyberattacks even more sinister. The disruption of networks that will result in the breakdown of services of government, power, communications, transport, finance, and other critical infrastructure can result in chaos in society. Instead of directly harming the populace, the attacker can create an environment where the populace will be motivated to destroy each other and themselves. Such damage mirrors that caused by enhanced radiation weapons, such as cobalt and neutron bombs, which are designed to kill but leave infrastructure and equipment relatively undamaged.[15]

Still eerily similar to atomic weapons of mass destruction, but to an even more sinister degree, is the ability of an attacker to design and control the degree of damage that is caused by the cyberattack. “Dial-a-yield” is the catchphrase often used to describe the capability to adjust a weapon to a desired scale of damage.

Domingo appears to make the error of failing to recognize that, with a cyberattack, the attacker not only can design the implementation but can practically specify the extent of damage from the narrowest of scopes up to unrestricted levels. Stuxnet was designed to go after a specific piece of equipment. Thus, the damage was limited only to the systems where the equipment was installed. If the global positioning system (GPS) navigation can be subject to an unrestricted cyberattack, which is now considered to be a distinct possibility[16], airplane crashes, ship groundings, and fatal mistaken identity incidents could occur at scales more horrific than simultaneous occurrences of incidents analogous to 9/11, Exxon Valdez, Aeroflot Flight 8381/ СССР-26492, MV Doña Paz/ MT Vector, and Korean Airlines Flight 007 combined.

There is no logical reason to wait until such catastrophic incidents occur, until lives are lost due to the lethality programmed into a cyberweapon, before establishing a robust cybersecurity framework.

 

Cyberattacks Do NOT Require High Technology; Cybersecurity Must Not Be Merely Technology-Centric

“[C]yber-attacks will not be successful if the spectrum is controlled or access to critical networks is blocked by accountable government units.”

F. Domingo, Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 18, 2013

Domingo mentions Stuxnet as a cyberattack; however, he may not be aware that the attack vector of Stuxnet was through the physical connection of an infected USB flash drive to a computer connected to the target network.

This, in hacker parlance, was a “sneakernet” attack. This attack was made via the crudest method of compromising a system — accessing the physical layer. The legal control of the allocation of the usable frequencies within the electromagnetic spectrum (for there is no means at present that can control the electromagnetic spectrum, short of repealing the laws of physics) by no means can prevent a sneakernet attack, or many other modes of attack for that matter. Restricting access to critical networks willy-nilly cannot likewise prevent such an attack since, by using the physical layer as the means of compromising the system, the data link, network, transport, session, presentation, and application layers are effectively bypassed.

Clearly, it is erroneous for Domingo to have posited that cyberattacks are solely technology-dependent, and thus for cybersecurity to be technology-centric.

In ensuring cybersecurity, there are two other aspects that must be considered and implemented. A cybersecurity plan must be based on a holistic combination of physical security, behavioral security, and electronic security means, policies, and procedures; to focus on a single defense aspect or potential threat axis would be analogous to building an iron door for a bank vault whose walls are made of paper.

Domingo has fallen into the trap of seeing a few trees and missing the forest.

 

Cybersecurity is Not Merely a Convenient Buzzword

“Security strategies are not definitive.”

F. Domingo, Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 18, 2013

Given that cybersecurity threats belong in a continuum, and that the actors, their motivations, the degrees of damage intended and programmed, and the level and breadth of skillsets are not one-dimensional – as he erroneously paints them to be – Domingo’s position of a one-size-fits-all approach to securing Philippine cyberspace is untenable.

Cybersecurity cannot be as casually relegated as Domingo proposes. The range of potential threats to the physical security of the Filipino citizen run the gamut of petty crime, organized crime, terrorism (domestic and otherwise), to unfriendly acts of foreign governments; it is well understood that the mandates to protect the life, liberty, and property of each Filipino that are given to the Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines differ in level of threat and scope of action.

So, too, should be the cybersecurity mandate.

This is the approach taken by the drafters of the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom. The #MCPIF proposes that the Department of Justice (DOJ), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and the Philippine National Police (PNP) shall be the competent law enforcement agencies to protect Filipino citizens from cybercrime, corollary to their mandates to protect Filipino citizens from non-ICT enabled or perpetrated crimes. Likewise, these law enforcement agencies, supported by other government offices—including the Department of Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)—will be tasked with protecting the country from cyberterrorism and cyberespionage. This is no different from the current mandates given to the respective agencies of government to protect the country from terrorism and espionage.

As they are tasked with national defense and the protection of national critical infrastructure, it is therefore likewise logical that that the DND and the AFP will be tasked with national cyberdefense and the protection of national critical ICT infrastructure.

It should be pointed out that while he is correct that the Information Systems Security Society of the Philippines (ISSSP), the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), and the Philippine Computer Emergency Response Team (PH-CERT), as well as scholars and government experts, can be resources and have actually been providing technical expertise on cybersecurity as private companies like Symantec, McAfee, and IBM, Domingo is wrong in saying that they can be agents to implement Philippine cybersecurity action and policy. There is no logic in this thinking, as it is analogous to using security guards as frontline troops in internal security operations against the New People’s Army. Security planning, while it may be enriched by inputs from those with the appropriate competencies and skills, is best put together by those who can see the forest and not just the trees.

 

RA 10175 is NOT a Good Basis for a Philippine Cybersecurity Framework

 

“[P]eople must be made aware of the rationale and scope of Republic Act No. 10175 and other laws that protect Philippine cyberspace.”

F. Domingo, Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 18, 2013

There is some merit, however limited, in Domingo’s vague proposals on how to implement cybersecurity for the Philippines, in so far as developing a culture of cybersecurity through education and information campaigns, ensuring resilience of institutions, and the development of multidisciplinary, multistakeholder teams for plans, policies, and programs to promote national cybersecurity. Clear proposals have been presented by the drafters of the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom and constitute an integral part of the bill.

Unfortunately, Domingo goes astray in promoting Republic Act No. 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, as a basis for promoting cybersecurity.

The oft-quoted maxim of Benjamin Franklin, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety,” points out the fatal flaw in Domingo’s promotion of the Cybercrime Prevention Act. As the law – fortunately suspended in its application – promotes such assaults into civil liberties such as the right to privacy, the right to due process of law, and the freedom of expression, it cannot be the basis for establishing cybersecurity for the Filipino people.

To be succinct: our rights online are our rights offline. Our cybersecurity thinking must be no different, therefore, from how we think of ensuring our physical security – holistic, properly-calibrated, competent, and rights-based.

To reduce it to vague buzzwords would be to endanger ourselves.

 

Endnotes: 

[1] Engr. Pierre Tito Galla, PECE, is one of the convenors of Democracy.Net.PH, an ICT and civil rights advocacy group that spearheaded the drafting of the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom. He is a practicing Professional Electronics Engineer with nearly a decade and a half in the information and communications technology sector, and is currently an executive in a Fortune 500 multinational whose networks span the globe.

[2]  Hathaway, et al. “The Law of Cyber-Attack.” <http://www.law.yale.edu/documents/pdf/cglc/LawOfCyberAttack.pdf>.

[3]  Ibid.

[4] Democracy.Net.PH. “Full text of the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom.” <http://democracy.net.ph/mcpif/full-text/>.

[5] Ibid.

[6] The Associated Press. “A look at Estonia’s cyber attack in 2007.” NBCNews.com. 8 July 2009. <http://www.nbcnews.com/id/31801246/#.Up3wE8RDtXg>.

[7] Kushner, D. “The Real Story of Stuxnet.” IEEE Spectrum. 26 February 2013. <http://spectrum.ieee.org/telecom/security/the-real-story-of-stuxnet>.

[8] Perlroth, N. “In Cyberattack on Saudi Firm, U.S. Sees Iran Firing Back.” The New York Times. 23 October 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/24/business/global/cyberattack-on-saudi-oil-firm-disquiets-us.html?_r=0>.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Waterman, S. “Cyberattack hits South Korea’s banks, media.” The Washington Times. 20 March 2013. <http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/mar/20/cyberattack-hits-s-koreas-banks-media-highlights-r/?page=all>.

[11] Cluley, G. “Memories of the Love Bug worm.” Naked Security. 4 May 2009. <http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2009/05/04/memories-love-bug-worm/>.

[12] Ward, M. “A decade on from the ILOVEYOU bug.” BBC News. 4 May 2010. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10095957>.

[13] Landler, M. “A Filipino Linked to ‘Love Bug’ Talks About His License to Hack.” The New York Times. 21 October 2000. <http://www.nytimes.com/2000/10/21/business/a-filipino-linked-to-love-bug-talks-about-his-license-to-hack.html>.

[14] RSJ/ GMA News. “NDRRMC: Yolanda death toll continues to rise, now at 5,759; damage surpasses P35B.” GMA News Online. 5 December 2013. <http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/338384/news/nation/ndrrmc-yolanda-death-toll-continues-to-rise-now-at-5-759-damage-surpasses-p35b>.

[15] Snow, D. “Strategic Implications of Enhanced Radiation Weapons.” Air University Review. July-August 1979. <http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/aureview/1979/jul-aug/snow.html>.

[16] Neal, R. “GPS Terrorism: Hackers Could Exploit Location Technology to Hijack Ships, Airplanes.” International Business Times. 29 July 2013. <http://www.ibtimes.com/gps-terrorism-hackers-could-exploit-location-technology-hijack-ships-airplanes-1362937>.

Save the Date — 8 AM, March 23, 2013: “Social Media Forum on National ICT Issues: The Automated Election System 2013″

Everything you always wanted to know about the automated election system (AES). And you get to ask your questions too. Join Democracy.Net.PH for “Social Media Forum on National ICT Issues: The Automated Election System 2013.”

On Saturday, 23 March 2013, 8:00 o’clock in the morning, at the  Justitia Room, Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee Center for the Rule of Law, we put the AES through the wringer via a forum patterned after an engineering process design review (PDR). The Commission on Elections’ (COMELEC) Commissioner Christian Robert Lim and Director James Jimenez, acting as project proponents, will walk us through the AES: the technology, the source code, the whole process from the casting of votes to the counting of ballots. Engineers, journalists, tech and political bloggers, lawyers, and concerned citizens of the Republic, acting as a proposal review committee, then get to ask questions for a more detailed and accurate understanding of the AES. Separate gossip from fact and see for yourself whether the AES is good for the country or is the harbinger of doom.

This event is open to the public. If you want to join us at the venue, please register via this link or via Facebook. Registration is on a “first-come, first-served” basis. If you’re halfway across the world unable to join us on that day, there will be a livestream care of BlogWatch and Smart Communications, and you can follow tweets via the hashtag “#AES2013PDR” and @PHNetDems.

What: “Social Media Forum on National ICT Issues: The Automated Election System 2013″
When: Saturday, 23 March 2013, 8:00 AM
Where: Justitia Room, Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee Center for the Rule of Law, 4th Floor, Ateneo Professional Schools, Rockwell Center, Makati City
How to join: Register here or join through Facebook

 

See you on Saturday!

Crowdsourcing: The Story of the Drafting of the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom

Update: The Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom (MCPIF) has been refiled for the 16th Congress.
PHNetDems statement when Senator Santiago filed the MCPIF in the Senate as Senate Bill No. 53
Statement of PHNetDems when Representative Kimi Cojuangco filed the MCPIF in the House of Representatives as House Bill 1086.

SBN3327 ScreencapThis is the story of how six ordinary, tech- and internet-savvy citizens, over three hundred online onlookers on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Docs, and a number of their politically-connected friends brought the dream of a Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom to the august halls of the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines, and found in Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago a champion for civil and political rights in cyberspace.

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Santiago Files Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, principal sponsor of SBN 3327

(Update 14 Nov 2012: SBN 3327 official PDF from Senate official website embedded below.)

Constitutional rights shall not be diluted in the Information Age.

This is the guarantee sought to be galvanized by Senate Bill 3327, filed on November 12, 2012, by the eminent constitutionalist and international law expert Senator Miriam-Defensor Santiago. In what is a first in Philippine legislative history, the provisions of the bill authored by Senator Santiago draw directly upon the suggestions of Filipino netizens solicited through online “crowdsourcing”. The proposed measure seeks to address not only the protection of  but also the establishment of the rights of Internet users in the Philippines. Also, guided by the expert knowledge of the diverse set of IT and legal specialists who advised on the bill, SBN 3327 seeks to establish a sensible, fact-oriented and balanced environment that defends Filipinos against against cybercrimes and cyberattacks.

Senate Bill 3327 is titled, appropriately enough, “An Act Establishing a Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom, Cybercrime Prevention and Law Enforcement, Cyberdefense and National Cybersecurity.” Also known as the MCPIF to the netizens whose views helped shape the Bill, the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom is anchored on:

a. Rights
The MCPIF protects the civil and political rights of Filipinos, recognizing and asserting our guaranteed constitutional rights in cyberspace. Economic rights and consumer rights, especially as affected by the use of the Internet and information and communications technology (ICT), are also promoted and upheld.

b. Governance
The MCPIF promotes ICT in governance, translating into an empowered citizenry, a more efficient and responsive government, and more effective use and distribution of resources.

c. Development
The MCPIF provides government agencies with the mandate and the means to harness ICT for national development, thus promoting Philippine economic growth and ensuring Filipinos remain competitive in the information age.

d. Security
The MCPIF prepares Philippine law enforcement agencies and the armed forces for the current and emerging security challenges of the information age. It equips law enforcement with the capability to prevent, detect, and respond to cybercrime. With bolstered national defense and intelligence capabilities made possible through the MCPIF, the Philippines will be able to protect its critical infrastructure, reducing its vulnerability to attacks by cyber-terrorists and rogue or enemy states.

SBN 3327 has been referred to the Committee on Science and Technology for deliberations. It is expected that in the same spirit that animated the crafting of the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom, legislative deliberations will be enhanced by the active participation of the citizens online, and the other ICT stakeholders. The Internet has facilitated an unexpected next step in participatory democracy, and the forthcoming legislative process will harness that power.

SBN 3327 – An Act Establishing a Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom, Cybercrime Prevention and Law Enforcement, and Cyberdefense and National Cybersecurity

[scribd id=113187011 key=key-yeze4eq6waidnxz1mpa mode=scroll]

(Photo credit: Senate official website, http://www.senate.gov.ph/)

(PDF credit: Senate official website, http://www.senate.gov.ph/)

Live Free and Ride

Live Free and RideYesterday, ABS-CBNnews.com reported that more than 1,000 motorcycle riders staged a protest motorcade over their concerns on the implementation of MMDA Motorcycle Lanes, or “Blue Lanes,” on EDSA, Commonwealth Avenue, Macapagal Avenue, and other main thoroughfares. (Aside: I wasn’t able to go. Pity. I would have wanted to be part of this expression of advocacy.)

Even with estimates of nearly 8 million motorcycle riders in the country, it appears that riders have been subject to quite a bit of marginalization, in terms of how they are being treated by government, whether by agencies like the MMDA or by local government units. Not that the sector is completely blameless — admittedly there are those annoying riders who weave through traffic without regard to the four-wheelers’ position on the road, those who wear their helmets on their elbows, or use completely unsafe construction hardhats in lieu of helmets. Over the fence, however, is an ugly, consistent presumption of some law enforcement officers that riders who wear balaclavas and full-face helmets and their passengers that they just might be criminals.

If anything, dialogue between the local motorcycle riding sector and government should be able to solve quite a bit of these issues. Since it appears that the sector is willing to express its grievances in the proper fora and in a civilized manner, shouldn’t government be willing to listen and work with riders towards the common good?

 

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Ampaw: The Flawed NTC Memorandum Order on Minimum Speed of Broadband Connections

NTC MO 07-07-2011 is a paper tigerAuthor’s Note: The full text of the National Telecommunications Commission Memorandum Order No. 07-07-2011 (Minimum Speed of Broadband Connections) was provided via email as an Adobe PDF file, in response to a request for the document.

To the best of the author’s knowledge, NTC MO 07-07-2011 has not yet been published in any newspaper of national circulation.

A sop to Filipino consumers, conceived with no regard to objective realities, and written in a lazy fashion — that, very politely, describes the NTC MO No. 07-07-2011. Not quite unlike a speech given by a traditional politician, it is prefaced by a long-winded introduction and followed by a weak policy.

To be fair, let’s begin our analysis by parsing the strengths of NTC MO 07-07-2011.

First, NTC MO 07-07-2011 requires internet service providers to be transparent in the billing of their subscribers, via Rules 1 and 2 of the order. Transparency is good for us consumers; we’ll know exactly what it is we are paying for.

Second, NTC MO 07-07-2011 requires internet service providers to be provide a minimum service reliability for their subscribers, via Rule 1. Instead of not being certain of getting what we’re paying for, the minimum service reliability ensures that we’re going to get it. In fairness to the ISPs and the NTC, a minimum service reliability of 80% is not too bad, considering the state of telecommunications infrastructure in the Philippines.

Third, NTC MO 07-07-2011 provides internet service providers good flexibility towards developing competition strategies, via Rule 1. By allowing internet service providers to offer the public various packages and prices, the ISP with the most aggressive, the most reliable, and the best-priced packages wins the market.

All that said, and despite the best of intentions, NTC MO 07-07-2011 is useless to us consumers and does nothing concrete to require good service from ISPs. Why?

First, NTC MO 07-07-2011 does not provide effectively for short-term prepaid internet connectivity. With service reliability measured on a monthly basis, prepaid internet subscriptions lasting one day, three days, or a week can easily meet 80% service reliability on paper, with the customer not enjoying the connectivity he has paid for. For instance, should a customer use a 3-day prepaid card and not be connected, his complaint will be easily dismissed once the ISP shows that he could have been connected on the other 27 days of the month, with the ISP meeting a service reliability of 90%.

Considering how much of the broadband market floats on prepaid services, that segment of the consuming public is going to continue to get screwed.

Second, NTC MO 07-07-2011 does not specify where service reliability is to be measured, instead of protecting the consumer by requiring service reliability to be measured at the subscriber end. As such, the internet service provider can very well claim to be meeting 80% service reliability or even higher, by measuring reliability at their end of the transmission medium.

This, despite at his end the consumer keeps on getting “Unable to connect to the Internet” error messages on his browser.

Third, NTC MO 07-07-2011 is silent on data volume capping. Thus, the MO allows for unreasonable data volume capping.

Therefore, a consumer with consistent 1 Mbps connection speeds can have his connection cut off every three days by virtue of a 1 GB data volume cap, and the ISP will still be completely compliant with the memorandum order, for as long as the ISP has a provision on data volume capping in fine print somewhere in the service offer/ contract/ prepaid SIM wrapper.

Fourth, NTC MO 07-07-2011 does not require ISPs to provide clear, timely, and customer-centric rebate mechanisms for customers if service reliability minimums are not met. ISPs can very well still get paid for the services they do not provide, and getting rebates will still be as easy as pulling teeth from a rabid dog using longnose pliers.

Subscribers, therefore, can continue to get screwed under the guise of “ma’am, network maintenance po kasi, di po yan covered ng rebate”, “sir, kelangan complete po ang documents and proof of downtime, tapos wait po kayo ng thirty days tapos i-claim ninyo personally dito sa office namin yung tseke”, and whatnot.

To summarize bluntly the impact of NTC MO 07-07-2011 to internet service providers, compliance to NTC MO 07-07-2011 is as simple as ISPs rewording their boilerplate contracts and marketing collaterals and ensuring that 80% reliability or higher is measured at their end. NTC MO 07-07-2011 will merely require cosmetic changes and tweaks in marketing, rather than significant improvements in service.

To summarize bluntly the impact of NTC MO 07-07-2011 to us consumers, NTC MO 07-07-2011 provides us with absolutely nothing but a wad of used toilet paper.

It’s brilliant, really. This MO will be hailed as a victory for the consuming public, with the perception of the NTC being the white knight riding to the defense against the greedy invading ISPs. The reality, however, is that the NTC MO 07-07-2011 is no more an actual strike for Filipino empowerment than the sham that was the Battle of Manila and the surrender of the Spanish troops to the Americans.

Read the full text of NTC MO 07-07-2011 here. If you want to read a proposed draft of a better memorandum order, one that serves all parties fairly, read this one instead.

And to think we were led to believe that the NTC really does have our interests at heart and does its best to serve us. Bleh.

Image from The Pulse Review (www.pulsereview.com).

Full Text: NTC Memorandum Order No. 07-07-2011 (Minimum Speed of Broadband Connections)

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES
COMMISSION ON INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

MEMORANDUM ORDER
No. 07-07-2011

SUBJECT: MINIMUM SPEED OF BROADBAND CONNECTIONS

WHEREAS, the 1987 Constitution fully recognizes the vital role of communications in nation building and provides for the emergence of communications structures suitable to the needs and aspirations of the nation;

WHEREAS, the promotion of competition in the telecommunications market is a key objective of Republic Act No. 7925 (RA7925, for brevity), otherwise known as The Public Telecommunications Policy Act of the Philippines, which mandates that “a healthy competitive environment shall be fostered, one in which telecommunications carriers are free to make business decisions and interact with one another in providing telecommunications services, with the end in view of encouraging their financial viability while maintaining affordable rates;

WHEREAS, RA7925 further defines the role of the government to “promote a fair, efficient and responsive market to stimulate growth and development of the telecommunications facilities and services”;

WHEREAS, RA7925 mandates the National Telecommunications Commission (Commission) to promote and protect the consumers of public telecommunications services;

WHEREAS, it has been observed that the service providers are offering broadband/ internet connections specifying only the maximum speed;

WHEREAS, customers/ subscribers/ users have the right to be informed of the quality of the broadband/ internet connection service being provided;

WHEREAS, fixed, fixed wireless and mobile broadband/ internet access differ in transmission characteristics;

WHEREAS, mobile broadband/ internet access suffer from signal fading more than fixed and fixed wireless broadband/ internet access;

NOW, THEREFORE, pursuant to RA7925, Executive Order (EO) No. 546 series of 1979, and in order to maintain and foster fair competition in the telecommunications industry, and promote and protect the rights of broadband service customers/ subscribers/ users, the National Telecommunications Commission (the Commission/ NTC, for brevity) hereby promulgates the following rules:

1. Broadband service providers shall specify the minimum broadband/ internet connection speed and service reliability and the service rates in their offers to consumers/ subscribers/ users in their advertisements, flyers, brochures and service agreements and service level agreements. The minimum service reliability shall be 80%.

Service Reliability is measured over a period of one (1) month and calculated as

[(Hours in a day x Days in a month) - (Time internet connection speed is below minimum)(Hours in a day x Days in a month)

The service offers shall specify the service rates for a minimum broadband/ internet connection speed and the service reliability. For example: a broadband service provider can offer PhP 900.00/month for 512 kbps minimum connection speed and 80% service reliability, or PhP 1,000.00/month for 512 kbps minimum connection speed and 85% service reliability, or PhP 1,000/month for 1 Mbps minimum connection speed and 80% reliability, etc.

2. The subscribers/ consumers shall be properly informed of the broadband/ internet connection service being offered to them.

3. Service providers offering committed information rate (CIR) shall comply with NTC MC No. 12-19-2004.

4. Failure on the part of a broadband service provider to comply with this Order, the Commission shall file appropriate administrative case against said broadband service provider.

5. Any circular, order, memoranda or parts thereof inconsistent herewith are deemed repealed or amended accordingly.

6. This Order shall take effect fifteen (15) days after publication in a newspaper of general circulation and three (3) certified true copies are furnished the UP Law Center.

Quezon City, Philippines, 15 July 2011

(signed)
Gamaliel A. Cordoba
Commissioner

(signed)
Carlos Jose A. Martinez
Deputy Commissioner

(signed)
Delilah F. Deles
Deputy Commissioner

Position paper submitted to NTC on Minimum Speed of Broadband Connections

Hon. Gamaliel A. Cordova
Commissioner
National Telecommunications Commission
BIR Road, East Triangle
Diliman, Quezon City

Subject: Position Paper on Draft Memorandum Order on Minimum Broadband Speeds

Dear Sir:

Greetings!

We who are internet connectivity consumers would like to present for the Commission’s consideration our position paper on the memorandum order on minimum broadband speeds currently being drafted by your agency. We believe that our paper, exhaustive as it is, presents essential fundamentals that shall provide fairness between subscribers and service providers of internet connectivity.

Should your office require clarifications, we stand ready to be of service.

Cordially,

(signed)

Engr. Pierre Tito A. Galla, ECE
IT Professional and Internet Connectivity Consumer

Noemi Lardizabal-Dado
Blogger, Project Editor (BlogWatch; http://blogwatch.ph), Features Editor (Philippine Online Chronicles; http://thepoc.net) and Internet Connectivity Consumer

Edward Angelo M. Dayao
Editor (The ProPinoy Project, http://propinoy.net/), and Internet Connectivity Consumer

Fritz Karl M. Tentativa, CPA
Financial Professional, Blogger, and Internet Connectivity Consumer

Arbet W. Bernardo
IT Professional and Internet Connectivity Consumer

Maria Jose
Blogger and Internet Connectivity Consumer

Ernesto Galvez Sonido Jr.
Blogger and Internet Connectivity Consumer

Jacinto A. Limjap, jr.
IT Professional and Internet Connectivity Consumer

Lester Cavestany
Educator and Internet Connectivity Consumer

Laya Isabelle Garcellano Florendo
Writer, Blogger, and Internet Connectivity Consumer

Aileen Estoquia
IT Professional, Blogger, and Internet Connectivity Consumer

Jaime Oscar M. Salazar
IT Professional and Internet Connectivity Consumer

Position Paper on the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) Draft Memorandum Order on Minimum Broadband Speeds

Relevant Law and Policy

The law governing the regulation of internet service providers is the R.A. 7925, “An Act to Promote and Govern the Development of Philippine Telecommunications and the Delivery of Public Communications Services”, otherwise known as the “Public Telecommunications Policy Act of the Philippines”, which took effect in 1995.

R.A. 7925 provides the national policies that should guide the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), the government agency empowered to enforce this act, and the policies germane to the debate include:

“a) A fundamental objective of government is to develop and maintain a viable, efficient, reliable and universal telecommunication infrastructure using the best available and affordable technologies, as a vital tool to nation building and development;

e) Public telecommunications services shall be provided by private enterprises. The private sector shall be the engine of rapid and efficient growth in the telecommunications industry.

f) A healthy competitive environment shall be fostered, one in which telecommunications carriers are free to make business decisions and to interact with one another in providing telecommunications services, with the end in view of encouraging their financial viability while maintaining affordable rates;

i) For efficiency, practicability, and convenience, but with due regard to the observance of due process at all times, regulation of telecommunications entities shall rely principally on an administrative process that is stable, transparent and fair, giving due emphasis to technical, legal, economic and financial considerations.”

R.A. 7925 also provides the duties of the NTC that are germane to the policy debate:

“b) Ensure quality, safety, reliability, security, compatibility and inter-operability of telecommunications facilities and services in conformity with standards and specifications set by international radio and telecommunications organizations to which the Philippines is a signatory;

d) Foster fair and efficient market conduct through, but not limited to the protection of telecommunications entities from unfair trade practices of other carriers;

e) Promote consumers’ welfare by facilitating access to telecommunications services whose infrastructure and network must be geared towards the needs of individual and business users;

f) Protect consumers against misuse of a telecommunications entity’s monopoly or quasi-monopolistic powers by, but not limited to, the investigation of complaints and exacting compliance with service standards from such entity.”

R.A. 7925 also provides for the basic rights of telecommunications services end-users that are germane to the policy debate, most notably:

“a) Entitlement of utility service which is non-discriminatory, reliable and conforming with minimum standards set by the Commission.”

R.A. 7925 also provides basic terms definitions that are germane to the policy debate:

“a) Telecommunications – any process which enables a telecommunications entity to relay and receive voice, data, electronic messages, written or printed matter, fixed or moving pictures, words, music or visible or audible signals or any control signals of any design and for any purpose by wire, radio or other electromagnetic, spectral, optical, or technological means.

b) Public telecommunications entity – any person, firm, partnership or corporation, government or private, engaged in the provision of telecommunications services to the public for compensation.

h) Value-added service provider (VAS) – an entity which, relying on the transmission, switching and local distribution facilities of the local exchange and inter-exchange operators, and overseas carriers, offers enhanced services beyond those ordinarily provided for by such carriers.”

This position paper is framed within the relevant national law and policy, and puts these over and above any other considerations except fairness and equity among all the stakeholders.

Internet Connectivity Promotes Transparency in Government

The experience of the United Kingdom in making government data public is a practical example.

The British government made non-confidential data available to the public, and the public went ahead and developed ways and means of using the data – from free software applications that gave stakeholders information on road conditions and infrastructure spending to group efforts related to citizen watchdog activities ensuring the integrity of public servants.

Closer to home is the pedestrian example of the livestreaming of public hearings, an activity with far-reaching benefits. Without internet connectivity, the NTC hearing could not have reached the public, and the Commission would have failed to live up to its mandate of protecting the Filipino telecom consumer. It is noteworthy that the NTC hearing that was livestreamed has resulted in citizens being informed of the Commission’s efforts, and citizens are now showing their appreciation via position papers such as this one.

Of course, the online viewers found it disappointingly ironic that the unreliability of the internet connectivity resulting in audio gaps and skips demonstrated the need for fair reliability that service providers seem unwilling to acknowledge.

As internet connectivity is a great enabler, it is in the best interests of the public through the efforts of the NTC to have internet connectivity to be provided with low barriers to entry and consumer-oriented reliability.

Internet Connectivity Promotes Civil Rights and Enables Communities

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a policy speech on 21 January 2010, said that “The spread of information networks is forming a new nervous system for our planet.”

She then described “Internet Freedom,” which is the Freedom to Connect.  She said, “The Freedom to Connect is the idea that governments should not prevent people from connecting to the Internet, to websites, or to each other.  The freedom to connect is like the freedom of assembly, only in cyberspace.  It allows individuals to get online, come together, and hopefully cooperate.  Once you’re on the Internet, you don’t need to be a tycoon, or a rock star to have a huge impact on society.”

Furthermore, internet connectivity promotes and facilitates constitutionally-guaranteed rights, such as the right to free expression, the right of association and peaceful assembly, the right to information on government activities and matters of public interest. Through internet connectivity, mass media allows for greater depth and breadth of reportage, as well as convenience and ease of access of media coverage.

Over and above these, internet connectivity not only promotes the civil rights, it also is an enabler in the saving of lives. Without internet connectivity, the “bayanihan spirit” of the online Filipino could not have been leveraged during the typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. Then, internet-connected Filipinos aided in the mobilization of volunteers, the identification of priority areas, the collection and allocation of donations – all towards helping less-fortunate Filipinos. Without internet connectivity, these laudable efforts could not have happened in ways that are equally as fast and as actively pursued.

Clearly, internet connectivity supports and promotes the enjoyment and protection of civil rights, as well as enabling communities to serve best as fellow citizens of the Philippines.

It is therefore required of the Commission to ensure the continued protection of civil rights as enabled by internet connectivity, by way of promoting fairness between service providers and the Filipino consumer.

Internet Connectivity is Beneficial to the Economy

The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development in 2008 published “Broadband and the Economy.”  It is a paper that examines how broadband networks interact with the economy.

It concluded several things.  First, broadband networks are integral part of the economy, and collectively is a “general purpose technology enabler”:

“GPTs are technologies that enable changes, which is also the case for ICTs, with broadband acting as the required infrastructure enabler (like the electricity transmission and distribution network in the case of electricity), and the Internet as the platform supporting an endless variety of applications. Thus, their effects are likely to build up over time. They can be expected to raise productivity, and give rise to network economies with network effects expanding over time. There will be new process, product and organisational innovations beyond what can even be imagined today.”

Second, broadband has become an integral part of almost every aspect of a knowledge based economy.

Broadband is the 21st equivalent of what roads, railways, telegraphs and postal services were to the 19th and 20th century.

Third, OECD noted that, “ICTs and broadband create new ways for companies to exploit the creativity and innovativeness of their workforce. Blogs, wikis, podcasting, tagging technologies, and lessons of community and social networking sites are increasingly seen as important tools to improve the efficiency of employees (Bughin, 2007; The McKinsey Quarterly, 2007; Wunsch-Vincent and Vickery, 2007).“

Fourth, in the Philippines, online workers such as The Lady Programmer who rely on the Internet for income will be grossly affected by a broadband cap, and is grossly affected by the slow internet in the Philippines.

The World Bank determined that for low- and middle income countries, that for every 10 percentage point increase in broadband penetration, it accelerates economic growth by 1.38 percentage points.

Broadband Speeds Promote Faster National Growth

The Global Network Readiness Index for 2009-2010 ranked the Philippines as 85 out of 133 countries.  This report measures the propensity for countries to exploit the opportunities offered by information and communications technology.

Broadband is Not a VAS, and Can and Should be Regulated as a Utility

The first point of contention is whether or not the internet broadband service provided by the telecom companies such as BayanTel, Digitel, Globe Telecom, Liberty Telecom, PLDT, Smart Communications, and Sun Cellular, is a value-added service (VAS).

We submit that data services such as internet connectivity are no longer VAS.

Telecommunications entities locally and worldwide have switched their telecommunications technology from analog to digital. Data communication over the public switched telephone network (PSTN) is no longer an enhanced service over and above voice services, which was previously analog. With the current technology used by the telecommunication networks, voice and data are normal services carried over digital networks.

Since data services are now ordinarily provided by carriers via their digital wireline and wireless networks, data services are not VAS. As such, internet broadband cannot be a VAS.

Clearly, because internet connectivity, broadband or not, is not a VAS, internet connectivity should not be a deregulated service or utility. As broadband is not a VAS, minimum service standards can and should be imposed for the protection of the Filipino consumer.

Broadband is Not Completely Subject to Free Market Dynamics

A contention of those supporting broadband as a VAS and therefore should be deregulated is that the dynamics of competition and a free market is what will result to service quality appropriate to the Filipino consumer.

This is patently false. Enshrined in our Constitution is the prohibition of the entry of foreign-owned companies, thereby promoting a protectionist environment for local telecommunications firms. There is little means for outside companies to come in and pose the kind of competition to local service providers that will result in better service quality.

Furthermore, telecommunications companies require legislative franchises, making the entry and establishment of new local firms more careful and longer in time. As such, the market can be and is already limited to a small number of players — an environment that is not conducive to competition that will result in better service quality.

As such, since the Republic provides haven and protection for local service providers, it is incumbent upon the NTC on behalf of the Filipino consumer to demand minimum service standards, of which the service providers can use as a baseline for their competition to begin.

In a study conducted by the World Bank called, “Rising Growth, Declining Investment: The Puzzle of the Philippines,” published in 2008, Alessandro Bocchi asked, “Over the last 10 years, however, domestic investment, while stagnant in real terms, has shrunk as a share of GDP.  In an open and growing economy, why the decline?”

Bocchi answered that one of the reasons is that capital-intensive private sector does not want to invest.

The expectations on future profitability of investment are low.

Broadband Strategies That Work

Building Broadband: Strategies and Policies for the Developing World by Yongsoo Kim, Tim Kelly, and Siddhartha Raja, suggests that policy makers approach Broadband holistically.  It recommends to follow the Korean experience as that market has experienced rapid growth in Broadband market, outperforming higher income countries, but at the same time, the Korean feature is relevant to low to middle income countries.

What were the key plays down by the Korean government?  According to Kim, Kelly and Raja, the effort included public investment in broadband infrastructure and incentives for private investment.

More importantly, Korea viewed it as more than a network, or improved communications service.

They developed a vision of the information society, and set development frameworks to creating a supply and demand-side policies such as lowering market entry barriers and spurring demand.

Different Definitions of Broadband are Not Hindrances to NTC Definition

We concede that there does not yet exist a commonly-accepted definition of minimum broadband speed, despite the existence of technical definitions of technologies such as ADSL and HSPA, as well as full knowledge of their technical capabilities. Thus, it is unnecessary for the NTC to define the technologies, given that their definitions already exist; however, it is necessary to provide for the Filipino consumer what is the market definition of broadband in the Philippine, irrespective of the technology used.

The definitions we propose are:

Dial-up internet: internet connectivity via terrestrial landline networks with theoretical downstream data rate of 56.6 kbps and theoretical upstream data rate of 48.8 kbps, as provided for by ITU-T Recommendation V.92 “Enhancements to Recommendation V.90″, or less.

Wireline internet: internet connectivity via terrestrial landline networks with theoretical downstream or theoretical upstream data rate less than wireless broadband but greater than dial-up internet.

Wireline broadband: internet connectivity via terrestrial landline networks with theoretical downstream data rate at least 1 Mbps and theoretical upstream data rate of at least 768 kbps.

Wireless internet: OTA connectivity with theoretical downstream or upstream data rate less than wireless broadband.

Wireless broadband: over-the-air (OTA) connectivity with theoretical downstream data rate at least 768 kbps and theoretical upstream data rate of at least 384 kbps.

These definitions as proposed allow flexibility on the part of the Commission and on the part of the service providers in terms of the technologies that the service providers will deploy (e.g., fiber, cable internet, HSPA, WCDMA, WiMAx). In line with such flexibility, such definitions provide clarity to the Filipino consumer and therefore a better and fairer environment for the service providers to compete in.

Promoting such an environment on behalf of the Filipino consumer is part of the mandate of the NTC.

Service Providers Have no Authority to Set Caps Under the Premise of Anti-Piracy

What a subscriber pays for to telecommunications companies is access to content; hence, “subscriber line.” Data volume caps are iniquitous and inequitable because it empowers telecommunications limit content to which they do not own, and furthermore have no right to limit.

Data volume capping and speed throttling will not prevent unscrupulous subscribers from accessing pirated content; instead, it will merely make the access longer.  What is certain is that content piracy is the subject of content licensing, and content piracy is a business issue of content providers, not of telecommunications companies.

In the past decade there has been a clear winning formula in the fight against piracy.  It is this: make content people want available.  Make it easy for them to pay for that content and lastly make it easy for them to get that content.  The ease of digital downloads from stores like iTunes, Amazon, and Steam shows that such companies are clear winners in understanding the formula, and people are buying from these stores instead of shopping for pirated ware.

Recently, Wired Magazine published an article declaring that the Age of Music Piracy is over.

The death is attributed to the availability of paid music downloads.  The barrier for entry is so low, that anyone can now buy music easily through credit card or prepaid cards on Amazon or iTunes.

However, the same content licensing that is abundant in the United States is limited in the Philippines, and should broadband caps be approved purportedly because of content licensing, additional barriers to entry will be erected by the government and service providers. Such will instead encourage digital piracy.

Today, games could be readily bought online, and downloaded, and the data volume required is in the multi-gigabyte range.  Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) is a billion dollar industry and is one of the things people play in internet cafés in the Philippines, which is the primary method of access of the Filipino consumer. Should barriers to access be erected by capping broadband data volumes and speed throttling, pirated computer games shall see a re-emergence, as online games no longer are accessible to consumers, effectively encouraging piracy instead of combating it.

Clearly, data volume capping and speed throttling based on content issues is a short-sighted alibi of telecommunications companies. Connection must be irrespective of content, in the same way a toll way does not demand that only trucks with bottles can pass, disallowing trucks carrying cans.

A final point: piracy is within the purview of the Optical Media Board and the Business Software Alliance. Once it is made clear that the long term result of broadband capping is greater incidence of piracy, their opinion should hold weight – not those of telecommunications service providers.

“Network Abuse” is a Vague Term Promoting Service Provider Self-Interest and is Against True “Fair Use”

Terms such as “network abuse” and “abusive users”, used by service providers to justify the lack of minimum service standards while calling for the establishment of a “fair use policy” are at best vague and at worst misleading.

Service providers, service provider organizations, and knowledgeable sources themselves admit the following:

1. Users who maximize their data rate and data volume use constitute no more than 5% of the entire subscriber population.

2. Service providers practice “overbooking”; i.e., service providers “sell” more than is their available capacity to deliver, on the premise that not all subscribers use their internet connectivity at the same time.

3. Service providers automatically assume that maximizing one’s use of one’s subscription is indicative of using it for commercial or illegal (“unfair use”) purposes.

These positions above of the service providers ensure that no Filipino consumer can use in full the internet service he is being billed for in full.

The concept of “fair use” is itself laudable when being done towards the protection of the consumer, and the concept we support. The concept, however cannot exist in practice if the service providers make the assumption that a consumer’s maximization of his subscription is unfair.

On the concept of using data volume caps as a means of measuring fair use: accessing the internet through any means makes certain that data is downloaded and uploaded while the subscriber is connected. Unless and until “goodput” — only useful information for the subscriber — becomes the measure of data volume instead of “throughput” — data volume that is inclusive of signaling packets and other non-information packets over and above the useful information to the subscriber, then data volume must not be used as a measure of “fair” or “unfair” use.

Furthermore, the laws of physics, which cannot be repealed nor regulated by service providers or legislation, themselves dictate the volume of data that can be transmitted by a specific connection speed per amount of time spent connected. As such, using data volume to measure “fair use” provides an additional constraint over and above constraints of time of use, furthering the unfairness suffered by the Filipino consumer.

Such a definition of fair is tantamount to a wet market association asserting to the Department of Trade and Industry that consumers must pay full price for a sack of rice that is half its size underweight.

Therefore, we reject the idea of data volume capping as a means of determining “fair use”. Should the data volume be used as a means of determining “fair use”, we recommend that the data volume cap per day must not be lower than 80% of the data volume as calculated using Shannon’s Law, with the assumption that the data transmission is lossless and zero carrier or transmission medium noise. The 20% margin allows for carrier loss, noise, multipath fading, and other factors that degrade data transmission.

As such, we propose the following concepts to compromise with the service providers towards defining “fair use”:

1. The service provider may declare how many hours per 24-hour period constitute “fair use”; however, the service provider:

a. Shall not declare the “fair use” period to be less than 80% of a 24-hour period, or 19.2 hours;

b. Shall not restrict the “fair use” number of hours to a specific time period or time periods within the 24-hour period;

c. Shall not “carry over” usage hours from the previous 24-hour period to the present 24-hour period in the computation of “fair use” hours;

d. Shall not use data volume as a measure of “fair use” if the service provider uses usage time as a measure; and,

e. Shall begin the 24-hour period at midnight, local time, and the count of hours is reset as soon as midnight is reached.

2. The service provider may declare how much data volume per 24-hour period constitutes “fair use”; however, the service provider:

a. Shall not declare the “fair use” data volume to be less than 80% of the data volume that can be provided by the advertised “up to” speed in a 24-hour period, assuming lossless transmission and zero carrier or transmission medium noise;

b. Shall not “carry over” data volume from the previous 24-hour period to the present 24-hour period in the computation of “fair use” data volume;

c. Shall not use usage time as a measure of “fair use” if the service provider uses data volume as a measure; and,

d. Shall begin the 24-hour period at midnight, local time, and the data volume measurement is reset as soon as midnight is reached.

3. Should a service provider choose not to provide a “fair use” policy, the default “fair use” standard shall be based on hours of use.

Promoting a true “fair use” environment on behalf of the Filipino consumer and the service provider is part of the mandate of the NTC.

The Reliability of Internet Connection Must be Fair

For a “fair use” environment to thrive and be embraced by the public, service providers must provide a fair level of reliability for their subscribers. “Fair use” cannot coexist when demands are only made by one side for the other to answer.

The measurement of reliability within a time period is insufficient if time is the sole basis for determining reliability of an internet connection. Such a basis can be abused by an unscrupulous service provider, who can say that his downtime — the amount of time there is no connectivity provided to the subscriber — is zero percent, when the reality is that the unscrupulous service provider is consistently providing a connection speed that is already cheating the subscriber.

As such, we propose the following concepts to ensure more precise measurement of reliability:

1. Data rate reliability is measured over a period and calculated as:

Data rate reliability = {[(Average downstream data rate during actual use during the period)/("Up to" downstream data rate)] x [(Average upstream data rate during actual use during the period)/("Up to" upstream data rate)]} x 100%

2. Data rate reliability shall not be below 80%.

3. Service reliability is measured over a period and calculated as:

Service reliability = {[(Number of seconds of actual subscriber use during the period) - (Number of seconds below service data rate during actual subscriber use during the period)] / (Number of seconds of actual subscriber use during the period)} x 100%

4. Service reliability shall not be below 80%.

5. Overall reliability shall be calculated as:

Overall reliability = Data rate reliability x Service reliability

6. Service reliability shall not be below 80%.

7. Periods of data rate, service, and overall reliability measurements must be identical for prepaid and postpaid subscribers, and neither subscriber shall be subject to periods of measurement that make calculation inconvenient; i.e., users subscribing via daily prepaid services shall not be subject to reliability measurements longer than a per-hour basis.

Providing consumer protection for the Filipino internet users via the requirement of minimum service reliability is part of the mandate of the NTC.

Speed Throttling Must Be Fair

One means adopted by service providers in managing their networks is the use of speed throttling — i.e., the automated reduction of the data rate — which is not in itself necessarily unfair to the consumer.

However, the statement above comes with a caveat: speed throttling must not be to a level of service that is unfair, and by unfair we mean that that the connection speed must not go below a speed that is hampers or hobbles the customer experience.

Therefore, we propose the following concepts to compromise with the service providers towards regulating speed throttling:

1. The service provider may use speed throttling as a means of managing network use, provided:

a. Only the subscriber whose use exceeds “fair use” guidelines shall have his internet connection subject to speed throttling;

b. Speed throttling must not result to a connection speed that is lower than 50% of the subscriber’s minimum data rate; and,

c. The data rate is returned to normal at the same time “fair use” measurements are reset; i.e., if the “fair use” period is measured starting midnight of the previous day to midnight of the following day, and speed throttling is applied within the period, then the data rate shall be returned to the subscriber’s minimum data rate upon midnight of the following day.

2. The unwarranted application of speed throttling will be considered a breach of service reliability, and the service provider will be subject to the appropriate penalties, along with rebates and refunds due to the subscriber due to the breach of service reliability.

Promoting an equitable service environment between the Filipino consumer and the service provider is part of the mandate of the NTC.

Encourage Fair Minimums for “Best Effort” Services to Stimulate Competition and Promote Growth

We as internet connectivity consumers are cognizant of the role of competition and market forces to promote growth in the telecommunications industry. As such, we do not oppose the marketing of “best effort” services as one more set of products in a service provider’s portfolio of services.

However, “best effort” services must be truly reflective of a service provider’s best efforts; while “best effort” services are not expected to be at par with minimum levels of service as guided above, they must be at a level that does not compromise consumer protection.

Such an approach is akin to providing certain brands of rice at prices less than the prices of premium brands, but a kilogram of rice still contains a kilogram of rice — a concept that the Department of Trade and Industry promotes as a means of consumer protection.

Therefore, we propose the following concepts to compromise with the service providers towards “best efforts” services:

1. Service providers may offer broadband/ internet connection services on a “best efforts” basis, provided:

a. Minimum actual downstream and upstream data rates shall not be less than 50% of advertised “best effort” data rates;

b. “Best effort” data rate reliability shall not be below 50%;

c. “Best effort” service reliability shall not be below 50%; and,

d. “Best effort” overall reliability shall not be below 50%;

2. Service providers shall offer “best efforts” basis broadband/ internet connection services, only if:

a. Any advertisements, flyers, brochures and service agreements and service level agreements including “burst” speeds in their promotion of “best effort” services shall specify the minimum lengths of actual connection time and the start and end times of periods of internet connection use within which “burst” speeds can be enjoyed;

b. “Best effort” services shall not be the sole product of service providers, and shall not be the sole non-commercial internet connectivity product of service providers; and,

c. Customer complaints regarding “best effort” services shall be resolved in favor of the subscriber, unless the service provider is able to provide preponderance of evidence that the fault does not lie with the service provider.

Ensuring fair “best efforts” services protects customers while ensuring the growth of telecommunications services, which the NTC is mandated to do.

Any Penalties Must Be Fair, and Subscribers Must Not be Unduly Inconvenienced

The bulk of communications products being marketed today use prepaid as a model; as such, prepaid subscribers can be unduly inconvenienced if pressed to claim refunds and rebates in the same manner as postpaid subscribers do.

As such, while postpaid subscribers can be afforded premium customer service, prepaid subscribers must not be left in the lurch.

Therefore, we propose the following concepts to compromise with the service providers towards providing rebates and refunds without compromising the customer experience:

1. Actual downstream and upstream data rates shall be measured at the subscriber end.

2. Actual downstream and upstream data rates shall be measured during periods of actual subscriber use.

3. Actual download data volume shall be measured at the subscriber end.

4. Actual data rate reliability shall be calculated at the subscriber end.

5. Actual service reliability shall be calculated at the subscriber end.

6. Actual overall reliability shall be calculated at the subscriber end.

7. The NTC, upon recommendation of all stakeholders, will determine the official data rate and volume measurement and monitoring tool to be used to measure network traffic.

8. The information generated by the official data rate measurement and monitoring tool shall be the primary basis to resolve disputes regarding data rates, service reliability, and data volumes between service providers and subscribers.

9. Service providers shall provide automated means for the subscriber to be made aware that the use of his internet connection is nearing “fair use” thresholds, has reached “fair use” thresholds, and has exceeded “fair use” thresholds. Service providers shall not apply speed throttling or data volume capping without such automated means of informing the subscriber.

10. Service providers shall provide automated means for the subscriber to be made aware that the subscriber is nearing the end of the “fair use” period, has reached the end of the “fair use” period, and that a new “fair use” period has begun. Service providers shall not apply speed throttling or data volume capping without such automated means of informing the subscriber.

11. Automated means of refund or rebate shall be provided by the service provider, should minimum standards not be met by the service provider. The service provider shall provide the refund or rebate immediately to the subscriber upon resumption of the levels of service subscribed, without need for demand on the part of the subscriber.

12. Service providers shall provide the official data rate and volume measurement and monitoring tool free to all their subscribers.

13. Service providers shall ensure that the official data rate and volume measurement and monitoring tool shall be compatible with the operating systems of their subscribers.

Ensuring a just, fair, and equitable environment for subscribers and service providers is not only the mandate of the NTC, it is enshrined in the civil rights guarantees of fairness for all.

Proposing a Draft Memorandum Order With Fairness for Subscribers and Service Providers in Mind

We respectfully wish to submit for the Commission’s consideration a draft memorandum order embodying all the concepts above, with the goal of providing fairness between subscribers and service providers. Below is the draft memorandum order:

(Draft begins here.)

MEMORANDUM ORDER

SUBJECT: MINIMUM SPEED OF BROADBAND CONNECTIONS

WHEREAS, the 1987 Constitution fully recognizes the vital role of communications in nation building and provides for the emergence of communications structures suitable to the needs and aspirations of the nation;

WHEREAS, the promotion of competition in the telecommunications market is a key objective of Republic Act No. 7925 (RA7925, for brevity), otherwise known as The Public Telecommunications Policy Act of the Philippines, which mandates that “a healthy competitive environment shall be fostered, one in which telecommunications carriers are free to make business decisions and interact with one another in providing telecommunications services, with the end in view of encouraging their financial viability while maintaining affordable rates”;

WHEREAS, RA7925 further defines the role of the government to “promote a fair, efficient and responsive market to stimulate growth and development of the telecommunications facilities and services”;

WHEREAS, RA7925 mandates the National Telecommunications Commission (the Commission/NTC, for brevity) to promote and protect the consumers of public telecommunications services;

WHEREAS, customers/ subscribers/ users have the right to be informed of the quality of the broadband/ internet connection service being provided;

NOW, THEREFORE, pursuant to RA7925, Executive Order (EO) No. 546 series of 1979, and in order to maintain and foster fair competition in the telecommunications industry, and promote and protect the rights of broadband service customers/ subscribers/ users, the National Telecommunications Commission hereby promulgates the following definitions and rules:

A. Definitions

A. 1. Wireless broadband: over-the-air (OTA) connectivity with theoretical downstream data rate at least 768 kbps and theoretical upstream data rate of at least 384 kbps.

A. 2. Wireless internet: OTA connectivity with theoretical downstream or upstream data rate less than wireless broadband.

A. 3. Wireline broadband: internet connectivity via terrestrial landline networks with theoretical downstream data rate at least 1 Mbps and theoretical upstream data rate of at least 768 kbps.

A. 4. Wireline internet: internet connectivity via terrestrial landline networks with theoretical downstream or theoretical upstream data rate less than wireless broadband but greater than dial-up internet.

A. 5. Dial-up internet: internet connectivity via terrestrial landline networks with theoretical downstream data rate of 56.6 kbps and theoretical upstream data rate of 48.8 kbps, as provided for by ITU-T Recommendation V.92 “Enhancements to Recommendation V.90″, or less.

A. 6. The Commission shall adopt the official technical definitions of technologies such as but not limited to GSM, HSPA, WiMax, LTE, and so forth, as provided for by the ITU and other international bodies and consortia.

B. Rules

B. 1. Service providers shall be allowed to specify the maximum (“up to”) theoretical broadband/ internet connection data rates and the service rates in their offers to consumers/ subscribers/ users in their advertisements, flyers, brochures and service agreements and service level agreements.

B. 2. Service providers shall specify the minimum actual broadband/ internet connection data rates (“minimum data rates”) and the service rates in their offers to consumers/ subscribers/ users in their advertisements, flyers, brochures and service agreements and service level agreements.

B. 3. Minimum actual downstream and upstream data rates shall not be less than 50% of advertised “up to” data rates.

B. 4. Upon the occurrence of periods where the actual downstream or upstream data rates are below the minimum data rate (“below service level data rate”), said periods (“below service level period”) shall not be subject to billing by the service provider.

B. 5. Service providers shall be allowed to specify the maximum data rate reliability (“best data rate reliability”) and the service rates in their offers to consumers/ subscribers/ users in their advertisements, flyers, brochures and service agreements and service level agreements.

B. 6. Service providers shall specify the minimum data rate reliability (“minimum data rate reliability”) and the service rates in their offers to consumers/ subscribers/ users in their advertisements, flyers, brochures and service agreements and service level agreements.

B. 7. Data rate reliability is measured over a period of one (1) day and calculated as:

Data rate reliability = {[(Average downstream data rate during actual usage during the day)/("Up to" downstream data rate)] x [(Average upstream data rate during actual usage during the day)/("Up to" upstream data rate)]} x 100%

B. 8. Data rate reliability shall not be below 80%.

B. 9. Service providers shall be allowed to specify the maximum service reliability (“best service reliability”) and the service rates in their offers to consumers/ subscribers/ users in their advertisements, flyers, brochures and service agreements and service level agreements.

B. 10. Service providers shall specify the minimum service reliability (“minimum service reliability”) and the service rates in their offers to consumers/ subscribers/ users in their advertisements, flyers, brochures and service agreements and service level agreements.

B. 11. Service reliability is measured over a period of one (1) day and calculated as:

Service reliability = {[(Number of seconds of actual subscriber use during the day) - (Number of seconds below service data rate during actual subscriber use during the day)] / (Number of seconds of actual subscriber use during the day)} x 100%

B. 12. Service reliability shall not be below 80%.

B. 9. Service providers shall be allowed to specify the maximum overall reliability (“best overall reliability”) and the service rates in their offers to consumers/ subscribers/ users in their advertisements, flyers, brochures and service agreements and service level agreements.

B. 10. Service providers shall specify the minimum overall reliability (“minimum overall reliability”) and the service rates in their offers to consumers/ subscribers/ users in their advertisements, flyers, brochures and service agreements and service level agreements.

B. 11. Overall reliability is measured over a period of one (1) day and calculated as:

Overall reliability = Data rate reliability in % x Service reliability in %

B. 12. Overall reliability shall not be below 80%.

B. 13. Service providers may set maximum limits on the data volume allowed per subscriber/user per day, provided:

B. 13. a. The limit shall not be less than 80% of the data volume that can be provided per day by the maximum (“up to”) theoretical broadband/ internet connection data rate; e.g, the data volume limit of a 768 kbps downstream connection shall not be less than 80% of 7.9 GB per day, or 6.3 GB per day;

B. 13. b. No limits shall be set for upstream data volumes.

B. 14. The service offers made through advertisements, flyers, and brochures shall contain the service rates for broadband/ internet connection data rates, data rate reliability, and service reliability using any of these methods, e.g.:

B. 14. a. PhP 900.00/ month for “up to” 768 kbps maximum downstream data rate, “up to” 384 kbps maximum downstream data rate, 95% best data rate reliability, and 95% best service reliability; or,

B. 14. b. PhP 900.00/ month for 384 kbps minimum downstream data rate, 192 kbps minimum upstream data rate, 80% best data rate reliability, 80% best service reliability, and 6.4 GB daily download cap.

B. 15. Service agreements and service level agreements shall contain the service rates for broadband/ internet connection data rates, data rate reliability, and service reliability using both methods B. 14. a. and B. 14. b.

B. 16. Service providers may offer broadband/ internet connection services on a “best efforts” basis, provided:

B. 16. a. Minimum actual downstream and upstream data rates shall not be less than 50% of advertised “best effort” data rates;

B. 16. b. “Best effort” data rate reliability shall not be below 50%;

B. 16. c. Service reliability shall not be below 50%;

B. 16. d. Overall reliability shall not be below 50%

B. 16. e. “Best efforts” services must not be the sole product of the service provider.

B. 16. f. Automated means of refund or rebate shall be provided by the service provider, should any of the rules B. 16. a., B. 16. b., B. 16. c., and B. 16. d. not be met by the service provider. The service provider shall provide the refund or rebate immediately to the subscriber upon resumption of “best effort” service, without need for demand on the part of the subscriber.

B. 16. g. Should the service provider be unable to show proof of compliance with B. 16. e., the Commission shall file the appropriate administrative charges.

B. 17. Actual downstream and upstream data rates shall be measured at the subscriber end.

B. 18. Actual downstream and upstream data rates shall be measured during periods of actual subscriber use.

B. 19. Actual download data volume shall be measured at the subscriber end.

B. 20. Actual data rate reliability shall be calculated at the subscriber end.

B. 21. Actual service reliability shall be calculated at the subscriber end.

B. 22. Actual overall reliability shall be calculated at the subscriber end.

B. 23. The NTC, upon recommendation of all stakeholders, will determine the official data rate and volume measurement and monitoring tool to be used to measure network traffic.

B. 24. Service providers shall provide the official data rate and volume measurement and monitoring tool free to all their subscribers.

B. 25. Service providers shall ensure that the official data rate and volume measurement and monitoring tool shall be compatible with the operating systems of their subscribers.

B. 26. The information generated by the official data rate measurement and monitoring tool shall be the primary basis to resolve disputes regarding data rates, service reliability, and data volumes between service providers and subscribers.

B. 27. Service providers shall provide automated means for the subscriber to be made aware that the use of his internet connection is nearing “fair use” thresholds, has reached “fair use” thresholds, and has exceeded “fair use” thresholds. Service providers shall not apply speed throttling or data volume capping without such automated means of informing the subscriber.

B. 28. Service providers shall provide automated means for the subscriber to be made aware that the subscriber is nearing the end of the “fair use” period, has reached the end of the “fair use” period, and that a new “fair use” period has begun. Service providers shall not apply speed throttling or data volume capping without such automated means of informing the subscriber.

B. 29. Automated means of refund or rebate shall be provided by the service provider, should minimum standards not be met by the service provider. The service provider shall provide the refund or rebate immediately to the subscriber upon resumption of the levels of service subscribed, without need for demand on the part of the subscriber.

B. 30. The subscribers/consumers shall be properly informed of the broadband/ internet connection service being offered to them.

B. 31. Service providers may request the Commission for adjustments of data rate reliability, service reliability, and overall reliability minimum thresholds stated above, provided:

B. 31. a. The service provider submits proof that their subscriber base is not greater than 80% of their capacity;

B. 31. b. The service provider submits proof that even if their subscriber base is not greater than 80% of their capacity, their ability to meet minimum reliability thresholds is limited;

B. 31. c. The reduction in reliability thresholds shall not result in reliability thresholds less than 25% below “best efforts” reliability thresholds.

B. 31. d. The service provider shall reduce the service rates equitably, and the reduction in service rates shall not be less than 25% of the current service rates.

B. 31. e. The reduction in reliability thresholds shall be effective for only one (1) year, after which the service provider is required to comply with the minimum reliability thresholds prior to the reduction allowed by the NTC;

B. 31. f. Should the service provider be unable to show proof of compliance with B. 31. a., B. 31. b., B. 31. c., and B. 31. d., the Commission shall reject the application without prejudice to the filing of applicable administrative charges.

B. 31. g. Should the service provider be unable to show proof of compliance with B. 31. e., the Commission shall file the appropriate administrative charges, without prejudice to requiring the service provider to pay penalties and fines deemed equitable by the NTC.

B. 31. h. The Commission shall hold public hearings upon receipt of a request of a service provider for the reduction of minimum reliability thresholds.

B. 31. i. No service provider shall be allowed to make a request for the reduction of minimum reliability thresholds within one (1) year of a disapproved request for the reduction of minimum reliability thresholds or two (2) years of an approved request for the reduction of minimum reliability thresholds, whichever is applicable.

B. 32. The Commission may allow service providers different service rates for prepaid services, provided:

B. 32. a. Data rate reliability, service reliability, and overall reliability shall comply with minimum thresholds as provided for above.

B. 32. b. Prepaid services shall not be subject to speed throttling.

B. 32. c. Prepaid services shall not be subject to data volume capping.

B. 33. Service providers offering committed information rate (CIR) shall comply with NTC MC No. 12-19-2004.

B. 34. Upon failure on the part of a service provider to comply with this Order, the Commission shall file the appropriate administrative case against the said service provider.

B. 35. Any circular, order, memoranda or parts thereof inconsistent herewith are deemed repealed or amended accordingly.

B. 36. This Order shall take effect fifteen (15) days after publication in a newspaper of general circulation and three (3) certified true copies are furnished the UP Law Center.

(Draft ends here.)

Concluding Remarks

We applaud the National Telecommunications Commission’s efforts towards protecting the Filipino broadband consumer. It is because of wholehearted efforts that we are confident that transparency in public service – the “tuwid na daan” – will result in fair and just rules for all stakeholders.

As such, we shall watch the process with great interest, and we commit to be of assistance to the Commission in however best we can.

Deal or no deal?

Two people lease a car each for 24-hour use, and the cars are identical in every way. The designers of the cars claim that their product has a top speed of 150 km/h, has a maximum seating capacity of five passengers, and a maximum luggage load of 100 kilograms.

Because of traffic and road conditions, the drivers are able to travel at a comfortable 80 km/h. Not bad at all, for their purposes.

The difference between the two drivers is that Driver X usually travels alone, while Driver Y often travels with four passengers and a 50 kilogram load. Driver X also usually travels only once or twice during the day, while Driver Y has a lot of here-to-there trips during the day.

Clearly, neither Driver X nor Driver Y are overloading their vehicles. Also, neither driver can cram 48-hour driving in 24 hours — not without a Back to the Future time machine or a Harry Potter-verse Time Turner.

We are now told by the designers that Driver Y is using his vehicle unfairly, and it is because of this unfair use that both drivers suffer the traffic and road conditions that do not allow them to travel close to the designed top speed of the vehicle. The designers then tell us that to be able to travel near the speed they advertise, all users of their vehicles are allowed to carry only two passengers per vehicle and no luggage during their trips.

When asked if the advertised top speed will be met if all their conditions are followed by all drivers, the designers mumble their excuses about traffic and road conditions — the very conditions that are supposed to disappear when all drivers follows the designers’ demands. The designers gloss over the question and continue to demand that users follow the conditions the designers want.

The situation above illustrates the impasse between internet service providers and subscribers, which the National Telecommunications Commissionis trying to solve. Their initial effort, a draft Memorandum Order, has been described with terms like “silly”, even “archaic, moronic”.

GMANews.tv reported a few choice quotes in defense of the draft MO. For instance, from NTC public relations officer Paolo Arceo:

“(This) particular clause was suggested by public and public telecommunications entities to prevent network abuse by unscrupulous subscribers who violate intellectual property laws, particularly on copyright, by downloading movies and software, similar to abusive subscribers of unlimited call/text promotions which were primarily designed or person-to-person use but used for voluminous commercial undertakings.

“These types of network abuse limit accessibility to a few instead of providing adequate access for all of the subscribers. Commercial or high volume users may avail of other internet connection packages which have committed higher speeds and allow heavy data exchanges.”

Similarly, from Philippine Chamber of Telecommunications Operators president Atty. Rodolfo A. Salalima:

“[The clause] is consistent with the demands of fair use. This guarantees that abusive consumers of broadband/ internet service do not monopolize available capacity to the detriment of other paying customers. The definition of the volume cap can be left to the individual telecommunications providers to define based on the different service plan offers they provide, all in the spirit of competition.”

The draft memorandum itself says:

WHEREAS, it has been observed that few subscribers/ users connect to the internet for unreasonably long period of time depriving other users from connecting to the internet.

The line of reasoning of the NTC and of the telcos is clear.

First, there exists such a thing as unfair use of internet connectivity, otherwise known as network abuse.

Second, there exists such a thing as unreasonably long periods of internet connectivity use.

To that, I say: gentlemen and ladies of the leadership of the NTC and the telcos, THAT IS ABSO-EFFING-LUTELY NONSENSICAL.

What constitutes unfair use and unreasonably long periods of internet connectivity, pray tell?

I look at a flyer, I subscribe to an “up to” 1 Mbps broadband connectivity, and schoolboy arithmetic tells me that in ideal conditions, my total data volume in a day will never go beyond 10.55 gigabytes. I apply Shannon’s Law to this “up to” 1 Mbps system, and because of the inherent inefficiencies of the telco’s system, my average connection speed will never go above 500kbps; schoolboy arithmetic tells me that my computer will recieve a maximum of 5.15 gigabytes in a day.

That’s if the hypothetical telco provides me with 24/7 reliable connectivity, of course — and none of them do. Furthermore, with a complaint about “unreasonable long periods of internet connectivity”, clearly the ISPs do not want me to maximize my internet use should I wish to do so.

It’s like Honda telling me that I can’t have 24-hour rides through provincial roads, a recreational activity I like doing now and then. Anlabo.

Should NTC follow this idiotic line of reasoning, here’s what I want to see, given I’m a user of internet connectivity:

First, a definition of network abuse and a list of activities that constitute network abuse.

Second, the minimum length of an unreasonably long period, supported by raw data and the final analyses showing unequivocally what constitutes an unreasonably long period. (To my way of thinking, an unreasonably long period of internet use is 36 hours per person per 24-hour period– to put it simply, unreasonable use begins above 100% utilization.)

Third, before deployment of the idiotic line of reasoning, I want a written commitment from NTC and the ISPs that their connectivities will always be using zero-noise, zero-loss transmission media with a goodput-to-throughput ratio of 100%, in accordance with Shannon’s law and other information theory principles. Anything less than this, I will be given my internet free.

Fourth, I want the written commitment to include a commitment of the telcos to sponsor the repeal or amendment of Shannon’s Law. The sponsorship will cease only after Shannon’s Law has been repealed.

No more lag when watching YouTube, or I get my internet free.

No more lag when playing Dragonica, or I get my internet free.

No more lag when Skyping or videochatting, or I get my internet free.

Advertised speeds always equivalent to actual speeds at subscriber end, or I get my internet free.

No limits to the size of the game patches and software updates I have to download regularly for my PC’s maintenance, or I get my internet free.

Deal or no deal?

***
ERRATA: This was earlier published under “Cocoy,” but this was written by The Jester-in-Exile. My sincerest apologies to the Jester, and to our readers for the snafu. -C

Image: by XKCD, some rights reserved.

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