broadband

Filipino Internet users unite for #betterinternet

‘Netizens’ or internet citizens temporarily put aside their gizmos Saturday as they flocked the first-ever public consultation aiming to gear up fight for better internet in the country.

In partnership with Rep. Sigfrido Tinga of the House Committee on Information and Communications Technology and other lawmakers, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond ‘Mong’ Palatino took part in organizing the event to “gather as much input from the people, especially internet users, so we’ll be informed on how legislation may help in mending internet service in the country.”

Palatino said that the issue of internet service has become pertinent in this age of information technology and that the quality of internet in the country affects some 30 million Filipino internet-users.

Read more at Kabataan Partylist website.

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.

Philippine Telcos' Zealous Autoconfig

i hear this is an option in the latest Ubuntu release

The National Telecommunications Commission, which regulates telecommunications in the Philippines began hearings on regulating Internet in the country. Their draft memorandum called, “Minimum Broadband Speed,” and with the NTC determining that they are removing the broadband cap from the draft memorandum order, now the telecommunications industry has shifted its strategy to defining that broadband is a “value added service.” Clearly there is a need to define what broadband is, and how it affects the economy, and how to leverage the Internet for the future.

The telecommunications companies have taken the position that Internet is a value added service. Meaning this is not standard offering. And they continue to have the position,

“Requiring the providers of such service specify their minimum connection speed, service reliability, service level and service rates would amount to regulating the same,” said the Philippine Chamber of Telecommunications Operators (PCTO) in its position paper uploaded in the NTC Web site on Friday.

“In keeping with broadband access services’ true character as value-added service, we respectfully submit that broadband service providers be allowed to retain present setup where no minimum service standard is required,” the group said.

From a business and technological standpoint, the telecommunications operators are out of touch with reality. This group the telecommunications companies have formed seem to act more as a collusion between them than the free market forces they claim to subscribe to.

This is zealous autoconfig on the part of Philippine telcos.

The world over, Broadband is seen as an enabler similar to how roads, railways and electricity has historically been seen in that position.

Broadband is not and cannot be characterized as value added because it is fast becoming the telecom industry’s bread and cheese. Data is fast becoming the norm. Looking at CES 2011, everything is data driven. Television is downloading content; Tablets are communicating wirelessly. The telephone lines and the cable lines of the telecom providers are no longer used as voice communication lines, they are used to broadcast and receive information in the same way our airwaves are used by television and radio.

Broadband is no longer fringe, it is the norm.

In Building broadband: strategies and policies for the developing world, it suggests that “countries with successful broadband markets typically also had vigorous competition among various networks as well as among service providers.”

It is clear that the position of the telecom industry is that there is limited competition amongst the providers. As such, this is simply no longer just an issue with the NTC, in fact, the nature of commerce and trade, of which broadband creates an impact in demands that the Department of Trade and Industry become part of the equation. I urge too, that the President actively use the country’s embassies to play matchmaker with local businesses and telecommunication providers to step in and create greater competition.

As I have noted in my open letter to both the Congress and the President, our legislature must look into the Telecommunications Law, and see if the NTC does have teeth in dealing with today’s and tomorrow’s broadband. I urge the Palace and its Allies in Congress to put this on the agenda as it does affect the economy. It is becoming clearer by the day that there needs to be better competition in the telecom industry. The issue of Broadband is not simply a regulatory issue, it is an economic and trade debate.


Comic “zealous autoconfig,” by XKCD, some rights reserved.

NTC removes Broadband cap from Draft Memorandum Order

The Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted NTC Deputy Commissioner Jaime Fortes,

The cap on the amount of data that users can download, the NTC said, would only hamper the industry’s growth.

“We are happy to announce that the provision on broadband Internet data caps has been deleted from our draft circular,” NTC Deputy Commissioner Jaime Fortes said. He was speaking to participants of the Communications Convergence Forum between the Philippines and South Korea held in Makati on Wednesday.

“We’ve removed this provision to make the discussion on the issue more lively. The provision was counterproductive to increasing Internet usage in the country,” he said.

A battle won. The war goes on.

Telcos' Easy Way Out

I don’t know about you but I’m already sharpening my pitchfork. I’ve been having terrible internet connection from Sky Broadband for several months now. The last thing I wanted to hear over the holidays was NTC allowing telcos to data cap internet connection.

My first reaction was, “ARE THEY KIDDING ME? “I can hardly connect to the internet and they have have the gall to try and impose this?”

I’m dead serious that my internet is so slow. It takes me so long to view video clips on Youtube so I try to avoid the site. I just laugh bitterly when someone suggests I download something off torrent sites. I’ve tried many ISPs in the past and most have been unsatisfactory. Very unsatisfactory. Considering that I live just a stone’s throw away from Ortigas Center, it befuddles me why I only have a few telco options in my area to choose from. Now I’m beginning to suspect that the equipment ISPs use are antiquated and look something like this.

Let us study the draft memorandum of the NTC (which I couldn’t access because either the NTC website is down or my internet connection is very slow).

Draft NTC Memo Order for telcos on Minimum Speed of Broadband Connection, December 2010

Basically, it will give ISPs the go-signal to impose data caps on their subscribers. NTC also wants the minimum speed to be published by the ISPs. However, it didn’t state the kind of penalties the ISPs will get if we subscribers receive less than 80% of the published speed. Furthermore, the memorandum states

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.

I wonder what their definition of “unreasonably long period of time” is. What if I’m online 17 hours a day but I only browse, use social networks, and email? I think that’s still within the bounds of fair use.

We already pay more for internet services compared to our Asian neighbors. M1 of Singapore charges only S$25.20 (approx P860) for 5 MBP. For P1,000 on Sky Broadband, I only get 1 MBP. I wouldn’t really mind the price difference but the service is so unreliable.

NTC was set up to protect us, the consumers, but this “Minimum Speed of Broadband Connections” proposal is just the opposite. The proposal came from the telcos themselves and NTC Public Relations Officer Paolo Arceo even said so.

(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.

There are only a few who abuse the network. NTC shouldn’t make every subscriber suffer because of those bastards. What NTC should do is make sure the ISPs have adequate infrastructure to meet subscriber volume. Data capping is just the telcos’ easy way out from delivering quality service. If data capping is a must then NTC should draft a better memorandum where consumers will also benefit.

See you on Tuesday!

The National Telecommunications Commission will be holding a Public Hearing & Consultation regarding the Memorandum Order on Minimum Speed of Broadband Connection.

What: Proposed Memorandum Order on “Minimum Speed of Broadband Connection”
When: January 11, 2011 – Tuesday, 2:00pm
Where: NTC Executive Conference Rm., 3rd Floor, NTC Building, BIR Road, East Triangle, Diliman, Quezon City

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.

What is broadband capping, and why is it bad for Filipinos?

it is easier to be an asshole to words than to people

Manuel made a good point in his comment over at The Jester-in-Exile’s A better draft memorandum order on Minimum Speed of Broadband Connections. So I will try to convey it in real world terms.

Here goes.

What do I mean by Broadband

“Broadband,” has come to mean how fast your Internet connection is. It is commonly associated with the transmission method by which “Internet data” is transmitted to you, and you back to the Internet.

“Bandwidth,” on the other hand is rate Internet data is transmitted to you.

In a road analogy, broadband is the difference between a street, an avenue, a highway or a freeway. Bandwidth is the top speed you’re allowed to travel to and from the road.

In a water analogy, broadband is the difference between how large the pipe is going to and from your house or office to your service provider. Bandwidth is the rate of pressure your service provider allows to pass the pipes to your home/office from the Service Provider office.

Broadband is also described as an Internet connection that is faster than dial-up. Dial-up, just for the record has a speed of 48.8kpbs.

When I speak of “Internet data,” it is anything conveyed over the Internet protocol, which is the network as it exists outside of your house or office. So this could be music that you are downloading from iTunes. It could be parts of the game you are transmitting, and receiving while playing a game of Counter Strike that you are playing against your cousin who is in the Internet cafe down the street. It could be the latest Lady Gaga Music video published on YouTube. It could be a rant you are reading on this blog.

So broadband could be transmitted to you through a number of ways.

Broadband could be transmitted through your phone line. This is called, ADSL, or asynchronous digital subscriber line. It is asynchronous because your download— the rate of Internet data going into your house or office is much faster than the rate you are allowed to send Internet data from your house or office. For example, you can receive Email at the rate of 10kbps, but you can only send email to your friends at 5kbps.

Another way to transmit Internet data, is called “Cable Internet.” This is Internet data sent to you via your Cable company’s line. It typically exists right beside your cable TV. Think of CNN as driving in parallel with your Lady Gaga stream, but on separate lanes.

Then there is something called, Wireless broadband. This happens over cellular network. Wireless broadband is what the networks call, “3G,” or “HSDPA.” From the cell tower internet data is sent and received by your mobile phone.

This is different from “WiFi.”

Think of WiFi as more localized. This exist inside your home, your office or in an environment like the mall. It is a means to allow people to share a Broadband connection.

So Broadband is more on the telco or service provider side, while WIFi is more on the end user side. It is important to make these distinctions.

transmitting

It is also important to note that between the data sent from the Telco to your house and vice versa, there is bound to be some “signal degradation.” So for example, a rate of 1MBps is theoretical. There are real world, matter of physics and engineering reasons why 10 is not a 10, but typically an 8 or at best, a 9. It could be the type of cabling used. It could be issue with a router that connects the cables used. It could be your distance to the router, the boxes and the switches. It could be a software issue.

For example, take a typical ISP modem that your service provider installed in your home. This is any modem installed worldwide. It would normally have a 10mbps/100mbps rating. Which only means that you can connect a cable rated to run at 10mbps or 100mbps. So you choose of course the 100mbps cable. You’re not going to get 100mbps speed off that.

My point is, people naturally expect some degradation.

So, when you go to your ISP and they tell you the service package is 1Mbps, they will tell you that it is a range. That that is the theoretical max speed. If you go to globe for example their sales is going to tell you that you shouldn’t expect to get that speed.

What you should expect in a 1Mbps connection, something like a real world speed of 784Kbps, but no slower than 512Kbps or 80 percent of your subscribed speed, but no less than 60 percent of that speed.

So if your connection is slower, then your’e being cheated.

“But wait!”

“Yes, you girl in the back!”

“I don’t even know all this mumbo jumbo stuff on bandwidth. I can barely open my computer let alone tell you how fast it goes. I only know when watching Youtube, that it does that ‘buffering,’ a lot. It takes sssoooo long to watch Old Spice guy! And you know what? Sometimes, I can even connect!!!! What’s up with that? ”

In real world terms, this is like the water company saying to expect high pressure coming out of your faucet, but you only get a tickle, drop.

Another analogy is the highway. The government allows you a top speed of of 100kph, but because the roads are filled with potholes, you can’t even reach the minimum speed of 30kph.

To be honest, 1Mbps is something you needed like 10 years ago. In today’s world, a 1Mbps speed is like dial-up was back in the day.

Why?

Primarily because there is so much content that websites are asking you to download. Content that you don’t really know as content but is part of the website experience. There are javascripts that phone home to tell the site owner that you opened the page at a particular time, at a particular place. That “Facebook,” banner with all the likes and number of people who liked the page? That phones Facebook to get the data.

That’s not all. We’re headed towards a video centric world. CNN’s website is typically video. Most news sites have video, and tons of photos. Both take bandwidth.

Consumer complaint and state of the Internet in the Philippines

Consumer complaint is the slow Internet. The Internet in the Philippines is one of the slowest in the world. We pay more for our slow Internet than our neighboring countries in ASEAN.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report is a report that highlights the key role of ICT as an enabler. It is described as “the world’s most comprehensive, and authoritative international assessment of the impact of ICT on the development process, and how competitive nations are.” It ranked the Philippines 85 out of 133 countries, right behind Trinidad and Tobago, Russia, El Salvador, Ukraine, Guatemala and Serbia. To compare, Vietnam ranks 54 out of 133. Thailand ranks 47 out of 133.

In 2010, Yahoo-Nielsen revealed a study on Net Index 2010. They determined that 69 percent of Internet users in the Philippines are using the Internet from Internet cafes. That Internet commerce in the Philippines is negligible. They also determined that mobile internet grew from nothing— 0 percent, to five percent between 2009 and 2010 because the telecom providers gave preferential pricing.

So the state of the network in the Philippines isn’t simply anecdotal.

What the NTC said

There are three important things to note in the NTC draft memorandum order.

First, the policy of “Best effort” continues. Meaning, it will not demand that telcos meet an exact reliability standard. It means, the NTC will not care if telcos reasonably meet and continuously meet 80 percent of the broadband speed they advertised. NTC will not chastise a broadband provider if they delivered 70 percent most of the time to a subscriber, when they should be delivering 80 percent.

Second, while the NTC says there should be a minimum speed requirement, it does not say what exactly is this minimum speed that consumers should expect from their service provider.

Third, it imposes a cap on the amount of data you consume.

The best real world analogy for this is water rationing. During a drought for example, the water company would limit the amount of water you would consume. Fresh water is a resource that is hard to come by. So during warm months, the water company would require that you only consume say, 10 liters of water, or else they will cut off the tap.

A truck from the water company for example would swing by your neighborhood. You will all have to line up carrying only two drums of water, because that’s all you’re allowed to get so everyone gets a chance to have drinking water.

That said, Internet data is created and destroyed all the time. Your Aunt Lily would post embarrassing family photos every few months on Facebook. Leo Laporte’s This Week in Tech would broadcast a podcast every week. The Colbert Report comes out daily. The New York Times would publish a news article every few hours. A new YouTube video goes up every few minutes. A tweet gets sent every few seconds.

Oh, and that neighbor who is addicted to CounterStrike and World of Warcraft, he gets to play an hour after school daily in his favorite neighborhood Internet cafe.

Distance, volume, and sometimes faulty code can seriously impair network speed. ISPs have the ability to increase the flow or decrease the rate of Internet data. It is simply a matter of software. ISPs also know the number of accounts connected to a particular junction or router. There is an understandable, physical limit to the amount of data that passes through a router. Yet, this physical limit could be overcome by technology.

So what the NTC is saying, and what the Telcos want to do is to limit your bandwidth consumption. For example, they will allocate 5GB of data per day. That seems to be a lot. I personally consume, 1GB to 2GB per day. But i’m not the only one who consumes Internet. There are at least four other people using the same Internet connection.

5GB is nothing.

Not to mention, the speed is so slow, it consumes a lot of time.

Yet, Internet speed is supposedly rising the world over.

Ergo, Brandwidth isn’t really a finite resource. It is simply limited by economics and technology.

Government and the Free Market

What’s stopping the upgrade of technology is simply an economic one. Bocchi explained it in his study of the Philippine puzzle. As in every business, ISPs would naturally milk existing technology. If they can get more subscribers to use the same existing infrastructure, without shelling out capital expenditure, and thus improving the bottom-line is good isn’t it? Businesses are benefiting from the status quo, so they see no need to reinvest.

What’s happening in the Philippines’ telecom sector is the lack of initiative to reinvest. From the point of view of the telco, why should we spend money, when we’re pretty much making money with our current technology? We will invest only at the last possible second.

Service providers have done so with Cellular technology. Remember a few years ago when SMS was popular but the technology was lousy? Messages got lost or arrived late. Spam was everywhere.

In the position of the Telco, you would do the same, would you not?

Shareholder value must be protected. They have employees to pay, and a business to run. From the point of view of the service provider it is an understandable position, is it not?

The NTC’s reason

The NTC explained that the reason they want to impose the cap is to prevent illegal downloads.

This is an all together different issue from the fact that the Telcos are not delivering reliable, and fast internet in the Philippines.

In fact, there are pretty much many legitimate uses of broadband that consumes bandwidth. Take the downloading of content from iTunes, I have been quoted by Chin Wong, in his Manila Standard Today column, “Broadband dunce cap” on this.

How exactly do you download iTunes in the Philippines, when in fact, iTunes is only limited to an App Store?

Over at my blog, I published a How to buy iTunes music, movies, TV shows, apps, and books if you’re living in the Philippines. Without a credit card.

TEDTalks. YouTube videos.

Just last November (2010) I got a chance to participate in Sony and DC Comics’ beta program for their up and coming game, DC Universe Online. It is a massively multiplay roleplaying game, set in DC Universe. You get to play beside Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, as if you are a character in their universe. You get to play hero or villain. You get to go on missions.

It was geekgasm.

But you know what? It took several days to download the game. Not surprisingly, the game when I first had to download it was a whooping 12.3GB.

That’s like downloading 3 DVDs.

It is perfectly legal. It is legitimate use of Internet.

My point is, to argue that to associate huge bandwidth use with illegal content is a mistake. In fact, capping doesn’t solve the problem of software or content piracy at all. It will simply make it more difficult, but won’t certainly stop people if you don’t give people the ability to get content legitimately.

The lack of a local iTunes music store, for example I think speaks more about content licensing than actual technology limitation. The lack of streaming from Hulu and Netflix outside the United States is a content licensing issue.

People who are interested in buying content, can never get to it. So what happens, you’re creating generations of people who are getting used to simply getting their content.

A piece of music from iTunes cost as low PHP50.00. Apps too. Yet, you still have people preferring to get their content and their apps for free. Why? They want the content, but can’t get to it. You don’t sell it to them. There is no mechanism to say, we’re open for business. So prepaid card to buy content. No incentive to go legit. So an entire underground “economy” exists.

If you have that digital store open then people won’t have an excuse not to buy legitimate content. Correct?

My point is: broadband caps do not make the situation better. It doesn’t bring money to the content producers. It doesn’t make the economy grow. It simply pays the telcos more money for something they’ve already invested in and have milked on for years. No innovation.

The role of Government in the Free Market

The Free Market, I believe should be gospel. It makes the world go around. Yet, at the same time, we also know that a Free Market doesn’t mean it is without regulation. It means to have the minimum set of regulation to maintain balance. In a Free Market, government as a referee, as an instrument that levels the playing field and steps in only when absolutely necessary.

Every game has a set of rules so everyone plays fair and in a Free Market, government is referee and ensures that everyone plays fair.

That’s what we need here in the Telco industry and Internet in the Philippines. We need a minimum set of rules to determine how it is governed, and how it is governed properly. The Internet is a medium where everyone is both a producer of content, and a consumer of it. We have only the experience of Radio and television to tell us how the Internet will fare in a world where the lowest common netizen is not protected.

To join content and the speed and reliability of internet service in the Philippines is muddling the issue. It is a separate matter that has more to do with licensing than the pipes used to deliver the content. It is like saying roads are bad because we let trucks pass through them.

In the Philippines, more so than in many parts of the world, there is indeed a great digital divide. It is a divide between who is connected, and who isn’t. So many times there is a misconception of what the Internet is.

Today there are more people connected to the Internet using Internet cafes than there are at their homes. It speaks of the state of our economy, as much as it speaks about the quality of internet service we have in the country.

To let broadband cap through now would be a disservice to those people down the road. To look into the future and to cap say mobile internet use would also be a disservice, as Cellular networks are keys to getting the developing world online.

Studies have shown that Internet boosts productivity. That when the right set of policies are in place, broadband yields to real world GDP growth. In a nation such as ours, we need all the leverage that we can possibly get. We need a national cyber strategy that is holistic and true, and not born out of fear, but of imagination and hope and promise.

We are great big pioneers. What we do here today. How we define what the Internet is, vibrates ten years; twenty years; even a hundred years from now. We are still in the beginning of the Internet age.

At CES 2011, Microsoft announced a way to integrate its gaming system Kinect, which lets you play games without a controller with such features as netflix, hulu and even ESPN. The same system lets you watch say a game on ESPN, have a social interaction on that screen with say your brother watching the same game in a different country. They should the promise of what a virtual world would look like and how we could exchange social interactions in the future.

This is that video:

That would be data-centric. That would require bandwidth. That is a perfectly legitimate use of the network.

Microsoft sold 8 million kinect sensors in the last six months of 2010. And this is just the beginning.

Truth is, tomorrow is a data-centric world. And the shape of that tomorrow is here now. Everything now connects to the network. And it will only become more so. It must be governed or we may wake up one day to learn we have sold the future.

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You might also be interested to read an Open letter to President Aquino and the 15th Congress on NTC Broadband cap draft memorandum

And it leads to The Jester-in-Exile’s better version of the NTC’s draft memorandum.



Image by XKCD, some rights reserved.

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!

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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.

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