The NTC believes, and continues to believe that broadband is a value added service. Value added service is another speak for, “add on.” NTC believes that this isn’t the telco’s main business, but their side business.
In the face of an age where the Internet is slowly creeping to be everywhere, this seem to be an archaic position. More and more people are using data more than they are using SMS. Granted much of the population are still on older phones, and much of the population is still using SMS and phone, the industry is in a period of transition much like the move from landlines to mobile phones themselves.
Telcos are using mobile internet as alternative in areas where they have reached capacity on DSL connections. And consumers are readily switching to these mobile broadband connections because work can not be done without Internet. It is a fact of the 21st Century. Email is routed everywhere. Webservices, information on social networks, and even Youtube have serious aspects.
What’s also clear is that Broadband is not a national strategy. This is a mistake in the face of severe lapses in education, in science, and in business infrastructure. Where once a nation is judged by businesses on the state of their roads, and phone lines, businesses today look at how great a country’s Internet connection is.
The recent 2011 Sendai Earthquake is proof of the vulnerability of the Philippines in a regional disaster. Internet services in some parts of the country, went down. It also proved the weaknesses in telco Internet exchange interconnection, as sites hosted locally were the hardest hit. They were the hardest hit because for some providers, they send traffic outside the philippines, before coming back to view sites hosted locally.
While it shouldn’t be government policy to run the telco business, it is government policy to dictate the basic rules of the game, and to enforce those rules. How can the government enforce, much less dictate using terms and policies from the age of dial-up? The NTC is surely behind the times.
What is pretty clear in the face of global change, in the face of how much the Internet is instrumental in every part of people’s lives, and continues to grow, the Internet access must be considered as a right. At the same time, Internet infrastructure must maintain its core ethos: that no one group controls it and any law or policy must respect network neutrality.
It seems pretty clear that going forward, the Philippines must adapt an Internet policy that respects network neutrality; that sees the Internet as a right, and at the same time, be cognizant that the business of Internet infrastructure must be open to as many players as possible, and it must ensure that the government itself must not have physical control over the infrastructure. Internet is no longer a value added service, but the business itself. The faster the government recognizes this, and the importance of Internet in a long term national strategy, the better it is for people.
Update: Reader Rob Sanchez also noted that the big telcos’ business isn’t value added anymore.