A student speaks out on Broadband cap

By adtcruz

Currently both my Twitter timeline and tweets’ peace are disturbed by just one thing – the new NTC Memorandum Order that aims for a minimum bandwidth for broadband connections. It’s trying to address internet users’ concerns over ISPs’ false adverts on the services. Sadly, it was drafted without consulting the users and only the telcos were heard. On Tuesday, January 11, NTC will be holding a Public Hearing & Consultation regarding the Memorandum Order.

While the memo’s objective is to provide a minumum bandwidth for broadband connections, a concern that was earlier aired by internet users, it both got heavy flak and praises. Majority of the people in my Twitter timeline are either against or petitioning against it. Blogs and local newspapers weren’t spared by discussions regarding the memo. One of my favourite tech personalities, Rom Feria, wrote an article illustrating his stance. A colleague of mine in both the Roundtable Otakus podcast and The dere-moe Project, Mr.A, wrote a two-page article on his stance and recommendations in his website, Pinoy PC Perspective.

A copy of the memo is available here but before I start with my stance and possible effects of the memo, let me first describe my experience with three different ISPs.

Experiences and Complaints with ISPs

When I was based in Quezon City, my family subscribed to Provider A since we’re a landline subscriber for almost 13 years then. It took them three to four months until we got the base connection of just 768kbps. That time, it’s the fastest compared to the base plans of the competiting providers. During the first eight months of being connected w/ them, I always hit the subscribed speed but not the speed of advertised ‘speed boost’ during off-peak hours. On the latter part of the subscription period w/ Provider A, they suddenly changed the base plans’ speeds to just 512kbps. I wondered why my connection speed dropped, as a consequence, I spent more time online and connected just to download/stream videos. Downloading of source codes/Linux ISOs took longer too! My father and I complained the speed problem to their office but they responded with the typical “Sir, you’re subscribed to the basic plan of XXXkbps, which could get affected by the number of users in the area. If you want to, you may upgrade your plan.”

It was a good thing that around that time, my older sister applied for a ‘work from home’ opportunity in her office. And so, the office applied for a landline+DSL account from Provider B. It offers a sweet DL speed of 1MB/s and UL speed of 384kbps. We were happy w/ their service most of the times, no gripe and complaints, except from a one-day downtime that was explained clearly by their customer support. However recently, we’re experiencing/complaining the great downtime we get EVERYDAY. It worsened after the draft memo release.

And just this June 2010, I had to move to Los Banos as my University is located there. During the first weeks of my stay here, I had no internet connection. We applied to a leading telephone company for their DSL service but they refused to accept our subscription as their service is being repaired in my area within the campus. In the end, we had to settle for Provider C and their Cable telly+internet bundle. And I just thought that I’d be only experiencing a slower speed as compared with Provider B’s, but I was wrong. I, actually, have tons of complaints against this service provider. Instead of the should-be-384kbps, I only got one-half of the subscibed speed, and it was a lucky to get that. Another complaint of mine is their VERY POOR customer service. Calling their support line is just like talking to a brick wall! I, mean, the person in-charge of the phone seems to be ignorant of the situation and need of the customer! Going to their payment centre and complaining about their poor service is like asking someone to immediately do you a favour but only to find out that he or she would do it later! It also took three complaints before their technician went to inspect the problem! The technician seemed to clueless on my problems, albeit his promise of transferring me to another server helped for a bit. Yes, I now hit the 384kbps speed but not on protocol I use. That would be detailed in my next complaint.

Next complaint for Provider C’s service is their manipulation of my connection and the packets. They’re also limiting my bandwidth on torrents! Yes, I admit it, I use torrents but that’s for mostly for my anime, source codes and FOSS. There are times when my torrents hit 20+KB/s but most of the time, I get dial-up speeds and/or refusing to connect to peers. NTC’s website cannot be accessed at times! As if something’s preventing me to access it! I couldn’t even call people clearly on Skype! Not only those, uploading data on sites like Twitter is a pain in the a$$. After the browser uploads the picture/data, it should reload to the page indicating the upload’s success but, again, something/someone seems to be preventing the loading of the next page. Would you believe I actually spent 1 hour trying to change the profile picture of a Twitter account of mine just to fail?

Stance

A reason why the memo drew heavy flak is it’s clause of “a few subscribers/users connect to the internet for unreasonably long period of time depriving others users from connecting to the internet.” This is also the reason why data caps were permitted in the memo. The draft requires telcos to provide at least 80% of the subscribed bandwidth as an exchange with allowing them to cap the data transferred of their subscribers. First, how can one notice if there’s any improvement in the bandwidth or if the telco is providing at least 80% of the required bandwidth? Telcos even change the speeds without prior notice! Next, would users spend too much time on-line if the connection and it’s speeds are reliable? Imagine downloading a 330MB file for 10 hours because the speed keeps on fluctuating! As Sir Rom wrote in his article, who would do that in rising electric costs?

Next, subscribers are stuck on their respective plans’ speeds, which have different speeds right? Even if there are some “abusive” users, they’re still limited to their subscribed bandwidth! Telcos do NOT allocate a part of their bandwidth to divide it with the subscribers in the area! Data caps don’t guarantee greater or better bandwidth. I conversed with several people from around the world. A Malaysian Twitter friend usually tweeted about his 3G connection getting slow speeds even if he has good signal coverage! His telco implements the data capping on their subscribers. Lastly, giving telcos power to cap the data transferred would mean it’s susceptible to abuse by the telcos. How would the subscriber know if he/she is about to hit the ceiling? Again, this something that’s questionable. Remember the unreasonably high and ghost charges by a telco to their subscribers? If their billing system/metre is questionable, how much more if the data ceiling is fully-implemented?

One might argue the memorandum order is applicable mostly to wireless broadband and such networks are prone to abuse. Yes, I agree there are some users who abuse the wireless connection by using it as a DSL replacement but I can only agree with the data caps if they’re only implemented in mobile phones’ internet! BUT, telcos applied it to their mobile broadband services as well. Also, some providers seem to be violating Net Neutrality as well. Examples of such cases would be the Provider C mentioned earlier and the notice in this forum. And as I expected, one provider gave a 100GB/month data cap on their WIRED DSL network. With that ‘bold’ move of the said telco, I wouldn’t be surprised if other providers follow suit in giving caps to their wired home subscribers.

Possible effects

The internet is one of today’s important infrastructure. It powers SMEs, some cooperatives, freelance professionals, bloggers, education system/academe etc. How can freelance professionals operate if their connection got stalled due to data caps? We all know that are some of them are utilising consumer-grade plans in order to save more. In the academe, internet is used by students not only for the typical research but also for communication with their teachers, parents and peers. Some teachers even utilise modern tools like video conferencing to monitor his/her students’ progress! Also in some colleges and universities, students would be able to download lecture slides/notes from their professors/teachers. Cooperatives and SMEs utilise high-end consumer-grade or basic business internet plans for their business. Having data caps would affect their productivity in a way or another. Note that majority of Filipinos still access the internet via internet cafes. Data caps might cause cafes to shut down when their cafe hit the ceiling. What would happen to the effort of the current administration to convince people to start their own small business if part of their productivity depend on the internet and connections to the internet would be capped?

The said parties are one of the things that power our economy. What would happen if their productivity would be affected? Your guess is as good as mine. It might affect our economy, not positively but negatively.

Recommendations and conclusion

Despite the heavy amount of criticism I’ve written on this article, I still would be leaving a couple of unsolicited advice to the NTC. One shouldn’t be mentioned as they’re already calling for a public hearing on the matter. I advise the NTC to go over and check the current infrastructure of the telcos, enforce a standard for broadband speed and definition.

Everyone who is concerned over the memo should attend and participate in the public hearing. I won’t be able to go there as I have classes for the entire day. And oh, please sign the petition as well.

God bless us all!

# # #

Image by Gapingvoid, some rights reserved.

Editor’s note: From time-to-time The Pro Pinoy Project would publish entires by our readers. This entry was submitted by reader Anton, and is published here with his permission.


adtcruz is a fanboy of many things; true-and-blue Left-handed who just uses his right hand when holding the spoon and using the computer; Podcaster in The dere-moe Project’s podcast; Nationalist conservative; University of the Philippines-Los Baños student, currently taking up BS Computer Science degree; Writer for The dere-moe Project, and soon, for SEAsian fanboys.

Guest Writer