Category Archives: Network Neutrality

Why there should be a Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom

Opening Statement of Democracy.Net.Ph before the Senate Science and Technology Committee hearing on the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom delivered by Engineer Pierre Tito Galla, PECE

[Senator Ralph Recto, Senate President Pro-Tempore and chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology; Senator Francis Escudero, chairman of the Committee on Finance; Senator JV Ejercito;
Senator Manuel Lapid; and our sponsors, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chair of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes, and Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, and author of the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom, or #MCPIF;

Honorable guests and representatives of the government, the media, the academe, and the Filipino niche of cyberspace;

Fellow citizens of the Republic of the Philippines, both online and offline;

Good day.]

Introduction
Cyberspace is an alien world for many. Many are afraid; many more only grasp its fringes. Cyberspace exists as a domain of the mind, of zeroes and ones, of abstract concepts. It is not surprising, therefore, that the view of the Internet is one of the widest disconnect between a government and its people. Neither has walked in each other’s shoes.1

Our origins have been told many times: Democracy.Net.PH was formed when the Cybercrime Prevention Act was being signed into law2. We trooped not to EDSA or Mendiola, but on Twitter and on Facebook. We wrote and discussed over email, over social media, in the digital cloud, and over text messages and phone calls, what was wrong with Republic Act No. 10175. We brought together our expertise in technology, our advocacy of civil rights and Constitutional guarantees, and our common love for freedom.

We are ordinary citizens. We work for a living, like many of you, and like many of the people listening, and watching today. We have different political and philosophical leanings. Yet, we bonded in the shared belief that the awesome power of information and communications technology (ICT) is positive for the future of our country.

We appreciate being invited here today. We are humbled by the courage of Representative Kimi Cojuangco, who is our advocate in the House of Representatives, and by the enthusiasm of Senator Bam Aquino. We are deeply grateful to Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, for championing this cause, from the 15th Congress to this 16th Congress, when no one would give us the time of day; and to you, Mr. Chairman, Senator Recto, for this moment.

On behalf of Democracy.Net.PH, and of the netizens who helped craft the bill, thank you for the opportunity to discuss the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom.

Democracy.Net.PH and the Crowdsourcing Initiative of the #MCPIF
We have been constantly and pleasantly surprised by the reaction of OFWs to the #MCPIF; that of our friends on cyberspace; and that of the international community at large, who have constantly voiced that they were inspired by, and are watching the progress of the #MCPIF. We have been awed and inspired by the high praise that international digital rights advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation has given to our work, calling the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom “a success story”.3 At the 2013 Internet Governance Forum in Bali, we learned that other civil societies around the world want to copy and replicate the #MCPIF in their own countries. Because of the #MCPIF, the 2013 Web Index Annual Report has lauded Philippine lawmakers with the same praise they showered the parliamentarians of Brazil working towards a “Marco Civil da Internet”.4

With the #MCPIF, we have something special, something to show the rest of the world how netizens and Congress can work together to preserve, promote, and uphold our rights and freedoms.

Indeed, the Philippines is being cited as a model for participative democracy, that through crowdsourcing – the collaboration and direct participation of citizens enabled by the Internet and ICT – laws can be crafted that reflect most accurately our people’s aspirations.5

Promoting the “Freedom Doctrine”: The Holistic Approach of the #MCPIF for ICT Legislation
As we compared notes in the 2013 Internet Governance Forum in Bali, our belief that the #MCPIF is the right path has only deepened. In addressing the different and diverse issues of cyberspace and cybersecurity, what is needed is a holistic, rights-anchored law that will consistently uphold our rights online and offline.

Your honors, we understand where the government and Congress come from with respect to the cybercrime law. We understand its purpose: to curb prostitution, child pornography, and other nefarious crimes that have been perpetrated through and with the use of technology. We also understand where President Aquino is coming from: that there is perceived to be a need for responsibility and accountability with online speech.

We agree with the premise, the wants and desires.

We agree that there should be laws to curb cybercrimes. Malicious hacking is a crime. Those who take advantage of our women and children in cyberspace should be prosecuted and punished. A civilized 21st century Philippines cannot protect unjustified defamatory speech.

This, senators, honored guests, and friends, is where our common ground with the government ends.

Where the existing law is overly broad in what it seeks to curb, the definitions and elements of the crimes enumerated in the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom are narrow, specific, and clear in what they seek to prohibit. The #MCPIF restricts only and specifically the conduct necessary to prevent the evils we want to prevent. This much is to be expected, this much is required, of a law – any law – that affects our most basic and fundamental freedoms.

To enact a law affecting our people’s use of technology but focus on the punishment of petty crime misses the point. A law on the Internet and ICT cannot exist in a vacuum; the protection and promotion of rights and freedoms requires a more holistic approach than that offered by the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

To borrow from John F. Kennedy: We are here to promote the freedom doctrine.

The Four Pillars of the #MCPIF: Rights, Governance, Development, and Security
The Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom is built on four pillars: rights, governance, development, and security.

Rights.

Governance.

Development.

Security.

The Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom: Rights
The Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom promotes civil and political rights, and upholds and promotes Constitutional guarantees in cyberspace, as they would and should be in our daily lives. The #MCPIF is anchored on this principle: that the Constitution is our foundation as citizens of the Republic and equally as Filipino netizens in cyberspace. Our rights online are our rights offline.

The Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom: Governance
The Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom provides for ICT governance that is anchored on Constitutional principles. The #MCPIF makes it clear that the state shall take the responsibility to ensure that the governance of the Philippine ICT framework is in keeping with the ideals and aspirations of the Filipino people. This is no more strongly advanced by the transparency and open governance advocacy of the administration which is well represented in the #MCPIF.

The Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom: Development
The Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom promotes the development of ICT in the Philippines. The World Bank says that investment in broadband boosts GDP: a 10-percentage point rise in broadband penetration provides an economic growth of 1.38-percentage points for low and middle income countries.6 The use of the Internet and ICT is an enabler for productivity, and is a job creator. In Brazil, broadband connectivity added 1.4% to the employment growth rate.7

Senators, honored guests, and friends, our people deserve no less an opportunity.

The Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom: Security
The Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom protects the Filipino people both online and offline. Whether the threats come from an evil cybercriminal or cyberterrorist, a hostile non-state actor, or a rogue nation state, the #MCPIF provides the mandate and the means for our leaders to defend our citizens from the threats present in cyberspace. We want to empower not just the Department of Justice, but also the Department of National Defense. China, with whom we have a dispute, is a heavy player on the Internet, reportedly having deployed a cyberspace-centric military unit in hacking operations against other countries.8 Our ally, the United States sees cyberspace as a new domain of warfare.9 With the leveling of the playing field that cyberspace grants, we must also learn how to defend our country, and have the ability to defend ourselves in the cyberspace battlefield.

Conclusion
In his inaugural address, President Benigno S. Aquino III said these words: “This is what democracy means. It is the foundation of our unity. We campaigned for change. Because of this, the Filipino stands tall once more. We are all part of a nation that can begin to dream again”.10

Mr. Chairman, honored guests, and friends online and offline: like the rest of our people, we began to dream. We share in our people’s belief in democracy. We share in that common foundation of unity. The Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom rests on the foundation of democracy. The #MCPIF takes cognizance of our people’s rights, our country’s need to advance economically; our people’s desire for faster and reliable ICT services well worth the money we spend; our leaders’ thrust for transparency and open governance and, to our friends in the DOJ, our government’s need for tools and skills amidst great challenges to keep us safe. It is the hope of Democracy.Net.PH that we can all work together so that Congress can pass a law that upholds our rights online, and upheld offline. We ask the Senate to pass a law anchored on rights, governance, development and security. Let us, all of us, bridge this disconnect, this digital divide.

Senators, we humbly ask you to pass the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom.

Thank you.

End Notes

1. Dayao, C. Twitter. https://twitter.com/cocoy/status/278369861980266497

2. de Santos, J. Yahoo! News. “The Wisdom of Crowds: Crowdsourcing Net Freedom.” http://ph.news.yahoo.com/blogs/the-inbox/wisdom-crowds-crowdsourcing-net-freedom-042242158.html

3. York, J. Electronic Frontier Foundation. “A Brief Analysis of the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom.” https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/07/brief-analysis-magna-carta-philippine-internet-freedom

4. 2013 Web Index Annual Report. The Web Index. Page 36. http://thewebindex.org/2013/11/Web%20Index%20Annual%20Report%202013.pdf

5. McKenzie, J. “Crowdsourced Internet Freedom Bill a First for Filipino Lawmakers.” techPresident. https://techpresident.com/news/wegov/24226/crowdsourced-internet-freedom-bill-first-philippine-lawmakers

6. Kim, Y., Kelly, T., and Raja, S. “Building Broadband.” The World Bank. http://publications.worldbank.org/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=0&products_id=23841

7. UNESCO. “Broadband: A platform for progress.” http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/CI/CI/pdf/broadband_commission_report_overview.pdf.

8. Sanger, D., Barboza, D., Perlroth, N. The New York Times. “Chinese Army Unit Is Seen as Tied to Hacking Against U.S.” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/19/technology/chinas-army-is-seen-as-tied-to-hacking-against-us.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

9. U.S. Department of Defense. “The Cyber Domain Security and Operations.” http://www.defense.gov/home/features/2013/0713_cyberdomain/

10. President Benigno S. Aquino III. Inaugural address. http://www.gov.ph/2010/06/30/inaugural-address-of-president-benigno-s-aquino-iii-english-translation/

Why Data Caps put a lid on you

Data capping, also known as bandwidth capping or broadband capping is a data traffic management or traffic control methodology employed by Internet service providers, network service providers, and telecommunications entities. Data capping is purposefully limiting the amount of data transfer of a subscriber’s or end user’s Internet connection.[1]

Data is measured in two ways: by transmission rate or by volume. The transmission rate is measured in bits per second. You will commonly read or hear terms like kbit/s (kilobits per second) or Mb/s (megabits per second), or MB/s (megabytes per second). Please note that there is a difference between Mb/s and MB/s. “Broadband speed” is the more familiar term used by ISPs in marketing broadband service. Data measurement in terms of volume involves measuring the total amount of data transmitted between the ISP and the end user. Units of measure used for this is MB (megabytes) or GB (gigabytes).

We can use water as an analogy.

Data could be analogous to how we measure rate and volume of water. When there is high pressure, water is pumped fast enough to get a good shower or fill a drum of water much faster. In Internet terms, the more the provider “pumps out” the data, the faster you can finish your download. So movies or youtube videos don’t buffer, when “pressure is high”, and it buffers when there is “low water pressure.” Again: you can shower when you have high transmission rate, or you’ll have to settle for buckets of water to take a bath.

While volume of water is measured in terms of litters or gallons of water stored in say a drum of water. So you fill up your computer’s storage space with your music, movie and downloads from iTunes, for example. You can fill your computer up, or burn it in disk or fill up your USB thumb drive like water was downloaded into a water tank or drum.

Data capping is like water rationing. An ISP limits the amount of water (data) you can download to enable others to get their share. The only difference is that in data capping, the “rationing” is done from the ISP. They slow down your download speed, often to a trickle, to limit your download of data.

Data capping in the PH

Broadband service in the Philippines is sold in terms of “broadband speed” (transmission rate). For example, PLDT is selling to home users its Plan 999 for PHP499 per month for up to 2 Mbps transmission rate. Globe is selling its Tattoo Home Broadband 2 Mbps transmission at Plan 1099.

The Philippines has the third slowest broadband in the Southeast Asian region, despite the reported 66% per quarter growth in broadband speeds in the local market.[2] The Philippines lags the global average connection speed of 3.6 Mbps as reported by Akami—one of the world’s leading provider of cloud solutions. The global average— 3.6 Mbps— represents a 10% upward trend in global average connection speed, with average connection speeds growing 29% year-on-year for 122 countries.[3]

The Philippines is no stranger to data capping. Most, if not all telecommunication companies and ISPs in the country have data capping policies embedded in their Fair Usage policies (Please see Annex A for examples of existing data cap policies.) These data capping policies have largely existed unnoticed. That is, until the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a draft memorandum order establishing a data cap, after which it became a hot issue in the Philippines.

The NTC issued a draft Memorandum Order (MO) on “Minimum Speed of Broadband Connections.”[4] The draft MO was said to include a clause that would allow telcos and ISPs to restrict the amount of data to be accessed by end users.[5] According to then NTC Common Carriers Authorization Department Director Edgardo Cabarios, data capping was meant to “discourage unfair use, to give everyone a chance.” The telcos and ISPs sang the same tune.

There was a loud public outcry opposing the draft MO. Two position papers opposing the measure were sent to the NTC through The ProPinoy Project: one was spearheaded by Engr. Pierre Tito Galla, an electronics engineer and now co-convenor of ICT policy advocacy group Democracy.Net.PH, [6] the other from Mindanao New Media and the Davao Bloggers through their representative Ria Jose.[7] A draft MO was also proposed through The ProPinoy Project.[8]

The immediate result was startling. The NTC was forced to remove the data capping provision from the draft[9] and hold nationwide consultations on the issue[10].

As a result of the consultations, the NTC finally released the final Memorandum Order, NTC MO 07-07-2011, titled “Minimum Speed of Broadband Connections.”[11] Engr. Galla criticized the memorandum order, pointing out its flaws. Among these was the MO’s silence on the issue of data capping, thereby effectively allowing data capping.[12] In April 2011, Globe, like Smart, announced a fair usage policy.[13] This practice continues today from both networks imposing a data cap.[14]

The perils of data capping

There is a brewing firestorm on data capping, unleashed by the recent decision of Globe to be more firm in its implementation and fed by the public’s growing discontent over the quality of broadband service offered by telcos and ISPs.

The strident public opposition to data capping begs the question: Is data capping bad? The answer is not a simple yes or no.

There are instances where data capping may be called for, such as where broadband service is abused through the illegal sharing of copyrighted material. In fact, the main argument for data capping is to curb the practices of these abusive users, who—according to the Philippine Chamber of Telecommunications Operators—hog 80% of available bandwidth even as they comprise only 5% to 7% of all end users. [15]

Data capping per se is not a bad thing. Unfortunately, data capping, as it is implemented here, is unreasonable and indiscriminate: Oftentimes, it punishes both the innocent and the abusive users.

For one, data capping favors the investor and is anti-consumer. The New America Foundation reports that “the cost of data caps are about pleasing investors, not relieving data congestion,[16] and that “the cost of delivering broadband service is decreasing, not increasing.”[17] Matthew Lasar quoting Netflix wrote, “[W]ired ISPs have large fixed costs of building and maintaining their last mile network of residential cable and fiber. The ISPs’ costs, however, to deliver a marginal gigabyte, which is about an hour of viewing, from one of our regional interchange points over their last mile wired network to the consumer is less than a penny, and falling, so there is no reason that pay-per-gigabyte is economically necessary. Moreover, at $1 per gigabyte over wired networks, it would be grossly overpriced.”[18]

Data capping also discourages competition, putting some players at an unfair advantage. “Caps can be used anticompetitively—to discourage the use of services that rival an Internet service provider’s in-house offerings,” writes the New York Times in its July 22, 2011 editorial.  “For instance, AT&T points out that Netflix hogs 30 percent of peak-hour Internet traffic in North America. Netflix also competes with television offerings on AT&T’s U-verse network. Watching TV on U-verse does not count against the data cap. Streaming Netflix does”[19]

In April 2012, Comcast excluded Xbox from their data cap plan, which watch groups in the U.S., particularly Public Knowledge’s Gigi Sohn, in particular, argued, was anti-competition.[20] Sohn said this “raises questions not only of the justification for the caps but, more importantly, of the survival of an open Internet.”[21] Sohn added “This type of arrangement is exactly the type of situation the [FCC] rules on the open Internet were designed to prevent—that an Internet service provider juggles the rules to give itself an advantage over a competitor.”[22]

More sinister is the effect of data capping in putting a lid on economic progress and human development.

The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development says, “Broadband and ICTs more generally are general purpose technologies with a promise of significant and far-reaching growth impacts that may arise more quickly than from other GPTs in the past. Almost every aspect of economic activity and everyday life is already affected by broadband enabled ICTs, and with rapid technological developments and a continuous stream of new applications the pervasiveness of ICTs is likely to increase”.[23]

There has been a sharp increase broadband communications activity, particular coinciding with the rise of smartphone use.[24] For example, there is a rapid, prolific real world rise in messaging applications such as WeChat, Line, Viber, Skype, FaceTime, iMessage and many others that people use to communicate with around the world for both work and family life.[25]  The effect of data cap is significant, especially in the way it has changed the way people work[26] and in across many industries. And yet, using broadband service for legitimate traffic for work can be severely penalized.[27]

There is legitimate impact of broadband on the economy.[28] Dr. Raul Katz wrote, “As seen above, according to Koutroumpis’ research, in countries with low broadband penetration (under 20%), an increase of 1 per cent in broadband adoption contributes to 0.008 per cent of GDP growth, while in countries with medium penetration (between 20% and 30%), the effect is of 0.014 per cent and in countries with penetration higher than 30 per cent, the impact of 1 per cent adoption reaches 0.023. The implication of this finding for developing countries is quite significant. Unless emerging economies do strive to dramatically increase their penetration of broadband, the economic impact of the technology will be quite limited.”[29]

 

Annexes:

Annex A –  Survey of Data Caps

Annex B  – The #MCPIF provisions relating to data capping

 

 



This is republished with permission.

(This brief on data caps was prepared by Democracy.Net.PH. Please credit Democracy.Net.PH when quoting. For more information, send email to [email protected].)

Footnotes:

[1] “Broadband Cap”. Techopedia. Retrieved 2014-01-30.

[2] Michael Josh Villanueva, “Global broadband speeds on the rise, PH 3rd lowest in region”, Rappler http://www.rappler.com/technology/news/49248-global-broadband-speeds-rising-philippines-third-lowest

[3] Akamai, “Akamai Releases Third Quarter, 2013 ‘State of the Internet’ Report”, http://www.akamai.com/html/about/press/releases/2014/press_012814.html

[4] Tag: “Broadband Cap”. The ProPinoy Project. Retrieved 2014-01-30

[5] “NTC’s proposed data caps violate consumer rights, lawyer says”. GMA News Online. Updated 2010-12-30. Retrieved 2014-01-30.

[6] “Position paper submitted to NTC on Minimum Speed of Broadband Connections”. Galla, P.T. The ProPinoy Project. 2011-01-27. Retrieved 2014-01-30.

[7] “Position Paper Re: NTC’s Broadband Capping”. Jose, Ria. The ProPinoy Project. 2011-01-12. Retrieved 2014-01-30.

[8] “A better draft memorandum order on Minimum Speed of Broadband Connections (v2)”. Galla, P.T. The ProPinoy Project. Updated 2011-01-27. Retrieved 2014-01-30.

[9] “NTC junks proposed cap on Internet downloads”. Inquirer.Net. 2011-01-12. Retrieved 2014-01-30.

[10] “NTC to hold public hearing on minimum broadband speed connection”. The ProPinoy Project. 2011-01-05. Retrieved 2014-01-30.

[12] “Ampaw: The Flawed NTC Memorandum Order on Minimum Speed of Broadband Connections”. Galla, P.T. The ProPinoy Project. 2011-07-29. Retrieved 2014-01-30.

[13] Paolo Montecillo “Globe adopts Internet ‘fair use’ policy”, The Philippine Daily Inquirer, http://business.inquirer.net/money/topstories/view/20110403-329150/Globe-adopts-Internet-fair-use-policy

[15] Cocoy Dayao, “Philippine telcos to impose Broadband cap”, The ProPinoy Project, http://propinoy.net/2011/02/01/philippine-telcos-to-impose-broadband-cap/

[17] Ibid.

[18] Matthew Lasar, “200GB to 25GB: Canada gets first, bitter dose of metered Internet”, Ars Technica, http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2011/01/canada-gets-first-bitter-dose-of-metered-internet-billing/

[19] Editorial Desk, “To Cap, or Not: Broadband limits need to be carefully monitored to promote innovation and competition”, The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/22/opinion/22fri2.html?_r=0

[20] “Comcast Xbox Plan Sparks Debate Over Data Cap Exclusion” Telecommunications Reports, p.20, April 15, 2012

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Directorate for Science, Technology, and Industry Committee for Information and Computer and Communications Policy, “Broadband and the Economy”, Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, http://www.oecd.org/internet/ieconomy/40781696.pdf

[24] Kate Legget, “Forrester’s Top 15 Trends For Customer Service In 2013forrester.com http://blogs.forrester.com/kate_leggett/13-01-14-forresters_top_15_trends_for_customer_service_in_2013

[25] Raine Musñgi, Instagram, http://instagram.com/p/jylhansg0E/

[27] TJ Manotoc, Twitlonger/Twitter, http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n6aecd

[28] Dr. Raul Katz, “Impact of Broadband on the Economy: Research to date and policy issues”, International Telecommunications Union, http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/treg/broadband/ITU-BB-Reports_Impact-of-Broadband-on-the-Economy.pdf

[29] Ibid., p. 6 to 7.

The mtrcb wants to ‘regulate’ the Internet

According to ABS-CBN, the Movie, Television Review and Classification Board announced that it plans to talk to the Department of Justice regarding sites that supposedly publish video of underage women.

First off, it is a bold move in that there should be protection for underage women. And there are laws like the anti-child pornography law. So it isn’t like there is no protection at all or to even suggest that the Philippines isn’t out stumping out this form of evil.

Second, it is one of those ridiculous and dangerous things— even taking into account protecting underage women. We have just gotten out of a really bad situation in Dubai— where the Internet fought to be kept open and free. And the Philippines signed off against U.N. regulation of the Internet.

Near as I can understand it, MTRCB is beyond its Authority. In fact, why skimpy women dance on noon time shows is a matter of much concern, if we are being moralist about it.

What’s dangerous here is government stepping up on censorship on the Internet. It never has ended well. Justifying it on moralist ground is a danger in and on itself. And that’s what they really are after here isn’t it? Justification for RA 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act. The move of the MTRCB wishes to have some justification for law and the takedown clause in the cybercrime law.

The question here shouldn’t be a take down clause. It should be who is deciding what should be taken down and when. It can not be the cops or the prosecutor— in this case– the executive department of the government. It should be the court of law that should decide if someone has stepped out of bounce because that’s the equal protection we all enjoy.

What is to stop someone years down the road for using RA 10175 as justification for doing an Egypt-style crackdown on the Internet? Or a Chinese-style one? One of the biggest flaws of the cybercrime prevention act is that it doesn’t really fight cybercrime. Neither is it cognizant of what cyberwar could be.

@rom disagrees with me. He says, “I don’t think they can think at far ahead. LOL.”

@philippinebeat tweeted, “Here we go again. Afraid of the Internet and netizens?”

@ceso: wrote: “@philippinebeat i think it was just a knee-jerk reaction frm the complaint. good tho that people are thinking about internet freedom”

@gelolopez says, “@philippinebeat There are reasons why they are called MTRCB. Movie and TV.”

“@philippinebeat altho, drive vs. exploitation & trafficking of minors online is being strengthened under #MCPIF,” @ceso added.

@philippinebeat replied: “@ceso Likely. We need orgs that think something through carefully before they act. Clearly this goes beyond MTRCB’s mandate.”

@mobilemaui reminds us of another great idea: “BIR wants to tax online sellers.”

The answer really is the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom. What this does is fix the flaws of the Cybercrime Prevention Act. It does it better by starting with protecting rights enshrined in the bill of rights. It stands for an open and free Internet by balancing those rights out with the need of government to protect us. It doesn’t think of the Internet as a medium, but a living breathing ecosystem. We are giving the government the right tools, the proper mindset to go after the real bad guys, and at the same time being cognizant that the Internet is an economic driver.

Disclosure: the Author helped draft the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom.

[Editor's note: we updated this entry to reflect a few comments]

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.

Continue reading

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/)

Philippine Cybercrime Law: The Digital Divide and the Failure of the Tribe

When President Aquino was elected in 2010 there was much hope. It was the promise of a better Philippines. In many ways it has been a nation for the better. In many ways President Aquino’s election has been an eye opener to the myriad flaws in the way the nation operates. The botched hostage taking in August 2010 showed us how much inept our police are. The failure of the weather bureau and it’s slow subsequent transformation to a much better service is another example. Disaster preparedness is a lot better. The skirmishes with the Chinese highlighted the weakness in our nation’s armed forces. The death of Jessie Robredo likewise highlighted the lack of capability in rescue operations. Only now are we seeking signs of deep damage. What we have is a nation not unlike an old house requiring much renovation. And like these highlighted weaknesses, so too does the make, and passage of the Cybercrime law highlight another systemic flaw in our nation.

The Cybercrime Law highlights a digital divide between those who understand technology, and those who do not. It highlights the conservative thinking of our legislature, and the backward thinking in our politics balancing out the needs of tomorrow, with the need of a religious conservative society. It highlights the weakness too of our tribes, and how we have utterly failed to be proper ambassadors of technology, and the Internet so essential today. It is a startling example of where we are as a nation today: a dichotomy of the past with its provincial mentality, and a struggle for a more liberal future. In short, the cybercrime bill is an example of a digital divide between the technology savvy, and the not so.

The cybercrime law is a catch all law. It means that all the laws of the revised penal code automatically has an online equivalent. Lawyers, judges, and law enforcement have clamored for this.

The provision on cybersex is a response to the numerous cases of women and children being exploited online. Likewise, the cases of sex tapes being published. We are, after all, a very conservative society. Never mind if the source material was never intended to be published. Never mind if it was made by two consenting adults. The cybercrime law likewise doesn’t provide for provisions on sexual harassment, but since it is a catchall law, the laws already existing will serve as it. So if you’ve ever been sexually harassed on text message, watch for the implementing rules and regulations to be published because that’s how laws in the Philippines actually work, defined by what the executive says those rules and regulations are.

What else should you know about the Cybercrime bill? A wife being dissed on in social networks could not, they say file libel against a husband who has been bad mouthing her. And so, no libel case against someone online has prospered. So now libel means exactly what libel means in the print or broadcast world. Not that this too opens a whole can of worms.

Libel in the Philippines has always made the publisher and the editor-in-chief subject to libel by their writer. So a blog publisher will be subject to libel, as well as its editor-in-chief. In the American context, a site is not liable to a libelous comment left in its post. I have yet to figure out if the new Philippine Cybercrime Law follows similar thoughts, or if the publisher is equally liable. A casual reading of the published Cybercrime Law is silent on it. I wonder too how this would affect Twitter and Facebook. Would Tito Sotto for instance file a case against Twitter for publishing a libelous tweet against him? Again, the implementing rules and regulations could probably shed light on the matter.

Can you see how well-thought-of and well-written the CyberCrime Law is?

One of the provisions of the cybercrime law is on online libel. It means that libel on the Internet is the same kind of libel as it is on print.

Jon Limjap, a blogger, and a veteran and well-respected software developer wrote on his twitter saying that the Cybercrime law could now be used to “silence political critics online.”

“That sweeping statement ignores the constitution and its guarantees,” Wrote former columnist, and now Undersecretary Manolo Quezon III. “Anyone who really wants to say something will always find a way to write it.” He added, “In my humble opinion, nothing there that any columnist hasn’t had to live with since time immemorial.”

Undersecretary Quezon is right. There is nothing in the bill that no columnist has had to put up with for years. At the same time, Jon Limjap’s fears are equally valid. According to Jojo Malig, during the 103rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, they ruled that “Philippine libel laws violate freedom of expression.”

Philippine law, coincidently defines libel as “public, and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.”

And yes, bloggers ought to be aware of that. The rules of journalism ought to apply. Be careful how you write certain things.

Do the same rules apply to people leaving comments on websites, on Twitter, on Facebook, email and SMS? Do you want to find out?

So yes, there is a pressing need to revisit Philippine Libel law. And this very modern law now extends online.

As a victim myself of numerous attacks online, would this help protect me from trolls, innuendo and attack? Why doesn’t this law give me cause to rejoice?

The onus now too is on people who make the online world as a business. The cybercrime law says data must be kept up to six months. So yes, if you run a website, or own an online business, best to keep backup copies for up to six months. This is potentially more business for those in my line of work. Bad, if you own the business, which means more fees, and higher cost.

Is there anything good to come out of the cybercrime law? Well, yes, there is. For one thing, spam is now illegal. Which, I think we can all agree is a good thing. The second thing is that law says we should have a national cybersecurity policy. This is perhaps the best part of the law, and only part that gives me hope it is actually useful. Government will now (in theory) respond to cyberattacks on its websites and infrastructure. Again, the law is structured in such a way that the implementing rules and regulation will determine how well it is executed. If at all.

The cybercrime law highlights how flawed our legislature is. We have a group of people writing a law, drafting policy of which they barely understand, or construe the shape of, much less prepare the nation for the future that is without doubt coming. We have a nation trying to understand and grapple with technology that barely anyone understands, or comprehend the implications of. It is an epic struggle to bridge the 20th century, and the 21st. The political bench sadly is ill equip to deal with these struggles.

At the same time, the passage of the cybercrime law is an indictment of our tribes. We have failed us. We who understand technology have failed to bridge the digital divide. We are failing to educate how things are, and how things work. The tribes have failed to provide a constant campaign to be heard and to influence public opinion. We must now seriously reconsider how our collectivism can positively reshape society in the long term.

Where does this leave us then? We are left with a cybercrime law that for the most part reflects the tired past of Philippine governing, and law with a dash of what I hope could be a vision for the Philippines to engage in better cybersecurity.

Veteran News Anchor Twink Macaraig, in my humble opinion highlights the situation best. She tweeted, “I can hear our SC Justices now: ‘Tweeter kamo? And how is that different from Stumbler?’ Won’t be pretty.”

On Internet Freedom, Cybercrime, and CyberWarfare doctrine in the Philippines

I have been trying to figure out a way to express my view of Internet Freedom, cybercrime and cyberwarfare policy in the Philippines. It is this nagging beast in my head. How do you paint such a picture?

I sought to frame it in terms of Internet Freedom, and in terms of a “law”, (emphasis heavily used).

How can I make people and government understand what the Internet is, and how it could be of use for the future? It is understandable. How do you let non-geeks decide what Internet is? How do you explain to Non-geeks, technology, and how they mean to normal people?

Normal people don’t know or don’t care about Megabits per second. They just want stuff to appear right now.

Normal people don’t care how you track someone harassing them via text message or via email or even on chat. They just want them caught or punished. How do you explain the mechanism to do so for people in congress?

How do you explain to a general who has no idea what a computer does to comprehend that the Internet is a battlefield?

I don’t claim this as perfect or all encompassing, but this is my stab at painting the picture in my head. It is my response to cybercrime bills, and cyberwarfare. It is my stab against those who oppose network neutrality and answering the Internet economic question, and the cultural question. And I apologize if writing it as a “law” would seem presumptuous or arrogant on my part. No lawyer was killed in the making of this blog post, but I apologize to lawyers for butchering the law. I am but a noob, armed with a keyboard and a blog. This is how I see the world. This is simply my way to paint the beast crawling in my head.

Again, my apologies for the bit of crazy.

“The Internet Freedom Act of 2012″:

Why Smart wants you off Unlimited Internet addiction

Yugatech recently published that Smart Bro Rocket cuts the UnliSurf plans off its pricing option list, and according to the site the company intends to start offering Internet in bucket plan by September 30 — at Php180 per 200MB. Smart Bro Rocket is Smart’s new Internet dongle that uses its much advertised “4G”. It is a push for faster mobile Internet. There are in fact several things happening.

The Smart Bro Rocket is a move to convince the market to go back to first, dial-up days where people pay for Internet by the minute. Second, Smart wants to be able to aggressively gauge how much bandwidth it will buy. Third, the move is an effort to keep the early adopters from getting too addicted to the speed. People who will buy the Rocket, without doubt will be some of the heaviest users in the Philippines. Fourth, it signals the level of preparedness the company has– infrastructure-wise. It is a way to manage expectations, public relations-wise.

Let’s begin with Always on. You will notice Smart has been aggressively pushing for the Always On series of plans. This is one of the many options the company is making in an effort o get people off the idea of unlimited Internet.

Does that mean, Always On is bad for the consumer?

It would depend on what type of consumer you are.

The Always On series is actually pretty good deal for your smartphone. That’s a smartphone that you use only to send email, read tweets, update your Facebook status. Things, mobile devices like phones are good for. Payload for this type of job isn’t huge.

Put it another way, if you typically read 10MB of powerpoint via email on your phone, while on the go, you probably will be on the top end of that Always On plan, whereas if you just tweet and Instagram, well, the middle tier is probably where you are at.

So buying gigabytes in bulk isn’t so bad in that regard.

Now, when you apply the same thing to say a Smart Bro Rocket that you would typically use on a notebook for work, and play, that’s a different thing. For people like me who typically upload and download megabytes of data to my client websites, and to my own servers, that’s something to shy away from.

Could you imagine advertising agencies passing gigabytes of data on thumb drives (usb drives)? Yeah, it is called “Sneakernet“, because you walk to send data. I still find it incredulous that top advertising and PR companies in the Philippines— like all of of them— would prefer to meet just to pass along thumb drives of data for uploading. These agencies are without a doubt some of the heavy users of data. Videos and pictures are heavy on the bandwidth.

I also find it incredulous that some of these shops pay upwards of 25 thousand pesos for 1Mbps of Internet. YES, they do. In my opinion, that’s highway robbery.

It is that bad.

iPhone Developers too are constantly downloading gigabytes of software update. Xcode is one of those pieces of software that requires you between 1GB to 4GB just to update. This is why I am always hammering that Broadband Internet is like roads and electricity— there is an economic benefit to having, fast, reliable Internet. Knowledge workers are at the heart of digital, and goes beyond the typical BPO industry.

Smart for instance charges 10 pesos per 30 minutes. So that’s 20 pesos per hour. On a minimum of 12 hours per work day that’s 240 pesos per day. Let us assume that as a knowledge worker you spend 10 days out of 30 days, mobile. That’s 2,400 pesos for a Smart Bro Rocket.

Smart also offers what they call the “Power Plug-it”. According to their website, it goes up to 5Mbps. This is the sweet spot, of Smart’s offer for knowledge workers on the go. It has the unlimited Internet option.

The weird part in the pricing is that Smart seemingly doesn’t want to up-sell. The rocket goes up to 12mbps, sure when you’re in range of a HSDPA+ tower, but it crawls down to the power plug-it speed level when you don’t. The plus part of having Rocket in their arsenal does much more for Public Relations than anything else. It would help mitigate the “you are not upgrading your infrastructure” argument. They go, “hey look it, we have this. Buy it if you want that speed”. I suppose such a pricing move is a good way to manage expectations as well, and avoid the Rocket-is-slow-bad-pr from users who don’t know. It also shows that the telco isn’t ready yet for that kind of speed level, infrastructure-wise.

Using a Smart Bro power plug-it in Makati, by the way is awesome. You can even play an MMORPG on it. Downloading stuff via iTunes isn’t so bad either. Try going South and past Alabang, and you get a paper weight device. I should know. Done it early in the morning, going to and from Makati to Batangas and vice versa.

People want to up-sell, as much as possible right?

So what of the competition? Globe Telecom on the other hand has a competing Tattoo product, which co-incidently was hammered by bad news when it was embroiled in a trademark dispute, but the product remains on Globe’s Tattoo website. The company has mostly died down their aggressive push. Visit their website today, and it doesn’t even mention their mobile broadband Tattoo product. They mention pricing plans for their phones, but even mobile internet, but not the Tattoo product, which is on a separate subdomain. And there is no link to that subdomain on the main site. That of course says a lot more about the state of Globe than the lousy state of Internet competition in the Philippines.

The introduction of Always On product is for the most part a good thing for people on mobile phones, it isn’t a good thing for people using a lot of data. Always On is, another way of saying “Data Cap”, after all, and like I said, there is perfect fit for it on phones, and enhances the telco product line. It is a good way to stay online because all phones do is keep you on Twitter, Facebook, and Email, and news feeds. It is similar to Blackberry plans.

What’s happening is the commodification of the Internet.

As a consumer, it is up to you to consider which is best for you. As a consumer, your use case will probably be getting an Always On for your phone, and going unlimited for the rest of your Internet needs. For people like me, it would be getting multiple Internet lines for the home office, unlimited on mobile, and backups for backups. So there’s just no one option. You get a variety, per device, per mission requirement, so to speak, hence the term, “commodification”. It is how Telcommunication companies are trying to avoid being just “public utilities”. From the corporate perspective, it is a genius way to make more money.

The dangerous thing is when Always On bucket plan eases its way up the other mobile broadband offering, and becomes default for telcos offer Internet, and rids the market of the unlimited series. At the rate government has been setting rules on that regard, the consumer simply has no protection whatsoever, maybe expect market forces will decide which will succeed.

Hat tip to @brinknotes for the Yugatech link.