internet

Dear Normal People, This is what the Internet is…

A website is an office or space in Web server. For many companies, and for many people it is a front door to the world. That Web server is a building in a city. The Cluster (which is a group of servers) is a city, and the Data Center, which is a group of clusters is your province or state, and a federation of which forms part of a country, i.e. one owned by AOL, Amazon, Rackspace, MediaTemple and others. Read more

Some notes on digitizing social change

What follows is a modified version of a talk that I, on behalf of The Pro Pinoy Project, delivered last 20 February 2012 at Saint Louis University, Baguio City, as one of the resource speakers for the Digital Technology for Social Change: Creating Impact in a Networked Society seminar series, a project of the British Council Philippines.

My fellow speakers were Niña Terol-Zialcita, Micheline Rama, and JP Alipio. Members of the British Council Global Changemakers network, namely Jecel CensoroJoseph MansillaAnna Oposa, Dwight Ronan, and Ponce Samaniego, also talked about their respective advocacy projects.

Some Notes on Digitizing Social Change

Good morning. Thank you to the British Council Philippines and Saint Louis University for having me here, and to all the participants for the gift of your presence—or your tele-presence, for those of you watching the live stream of this session.

That the Internet has brought about, and will continue to bring about, wide and sweeping changes all over the planet would appear to be a matter already beyond question. In 2006, the print edition of TIME’s annual Person of the Year issue bore a shiny, reflective panel on its cover—the reason being that the Person of the Year was “You”. Lev Grossman, explaining the choice, wrote that one of the stories of 2006 was a “story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It’s about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people’s network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes”.

Grossman was referring to the dramatic impact brought about by Web 2.0, an umbrella term, that, following Prashant Sharma, covers online services that were built to facilitate interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design, crowd-sourcing, and collaboration. And while Grossman did warn against romanticizing Web 2.0—despairing at, among other things, the hatred and the lack of spelling skills that many of its users seemed to have in abundance—he nevertheless asserted that it gave rise to the “opportunity to build a new kind of international understanding, not politician to politician, great man to great man, but citizen to citizen, person to person”.

Regardless of whether “You” was the right pick, it is worth pointing out that succeeding Person of the Year issues saw TIME recognizing people who, without the Internet, might not have otherwise been thus acknowledged. In 2008, the magazine selected Barack Obama, whose successful campaign to be the President of the United States of America was driven in no insignificant way by online support. In 2010, the recognition went to Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of an immensely popular social networking company—you may have heard of it: it’s called Facebook, and it recently filed for an initial public offering (IPO) worth USD5 billion. Last year, TIME chose “The Protester” in view of the massive demonstrations that—with the help of Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, among other tools—were organized and still roil across the globe: in Europe and North America, in the Middle East and North Africa.

Given the theme of this seminar series—“Digital Media for Social Change: Creating Impact in a Networked Society”—it might be the aforementioned protests that spring to mind when we, with an eye to our own history of revolutions, try to imagine what can be done in the Philippines today. Using digital media, can we bring about positive social change? Or—to paraphrase from the preamble of our Constitution, a document which is supposed to be an expression of our collective will as the sovereign Filipino people—using digital media, can we promote the common good? Conserve and develop our patrimony? Share and enjoy the blessings of independence and democracy? Establish a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace?

Yes. Yes, of course. If I didn’t believe that, I would never have come before you to speak at this forum. (Incidentally, the girl in the picture has “optimistic” written across her hand in Arabic.) And yet the previous questions were more than merely rhetorical ones. Social change must always be understood as taking place within specific constraints, and especially so when we seek change by digital means in these islands. Such constraints cannot simply be conquered or transcended by sheer force of will—they form part of the unavoidable “social thickness” that must be lived through and negotiated with.

It hardly needs saying that I am not a Luddite: I own a mobile phone, a laptop computer, and an e-reading device; I have been a user of the Internet since the late 1990s, a time when a connection speed of 56 kilobytes per second—torturously slow by contemporary standards—was considered acceptable; I have been blogging intermittently since 2001, starting with Blogger.com, when it hadn’t yet been acquired by Google; and I spend several hours a day online chatting with friends, looking at pictures, watching videos, reading articles, and broadcasting banalities via social media platforms.

My stance as regards the Internet, however, is principally a cautious one. I am wary, even skeptical, of the various claims that are being made for it, verging as some of these claims do on what I would call “digital evangelism”: a zealous, fanatical conviction in the transformative power of digital technology in general, and the Internet in particular.  We must remember that the Internet is a relatively new development in the human story, and while many a commentator has declared that it will rival and eventually dwarf the printing press in terms of cultural impact, much of its potential, particularly in the Philippines, remains exactly that: potential. Digital change-makers who lose sight of this risk being engulfed by narcissistic self-regard.

All the same, you would not be ill-advised to take my words—as the fantasy writer George R. R. Martin might put it—well-salted. It may interest you to know that one of the first skeptics about technology was Socrates.  In Phaedrus, the Greek philosopher tells his titular interlocutor a story about the Egyptian god Theuth, who is credited with the invention of arithmetic, calculation, geometry, astronomy, draughts, dice, and, most importantly, the use of letters, or a system of writing. Theuth, desiring to make these inventions available for other Egyptians to use and benefit from, pays a visit to another god, Thamus, who is king over all Egypt, to show and explain each of the things that he has made. When they come to the letters, Theuth says that writing “will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; it is a specific both for the memory and for the wit”.

Thamus replies with a gentle rebuke: “O most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.”

Socrates was not completely wrong about writing—certainly it had some of the effects on knowledge and memory that he had feared—but he could not have foreseen this: the world that the written word had made possible, as well as its attendant wonders, not least of which is our ability to revisit his thoughts, precisely because they had been written down by Plato.

The first part of my presentation is derived from an ongoing, if not entirely systematic, process of research into and reflection upon digital media and the ways by which it is reshaping our lives and labors, and my primary objective here is to raise to the surface questions and concerns that I hope will help all of us to gain a greater awareness of the context that we inhabit, and a better appreciation of the possibilities for action. The second part of my presentation deals with The Pro Pinoy Project, the organization that I represent, and some of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for what may be called “participatory journalism”.

I will begin by drawing up a map of the local digital mediascape. The nature of a map is such that it is necessarily incomplete, and mine is a very partial one that focuses on the Internet, but I hope it will be sufficiently illustrative of some of the issues and limits that we must contend with.

Let’s talk about infrastructure.

Sometime last year, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) released a publication via its web site called Measuring the Information Society 2011, which features two tools that are used to monitor developments in information and communication technology (ICT) worldwide: first, the ICT Development Index, which tracks indictors pertaining to ICT access, use, and skills in a given economy, and then rates that economy on a scale of one to ten; and second, the ICT Price Basket, which considers the costs of fixed-telephone, mobile-cellular, and fixed-broadband Internet services vis-à-vis the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of a given economy.

 According to the latest findings by the ITU, how did the Philippines fare? With regard to the ICT Development Index, our country got 3.22 out of 10, ranking 16th out of the 27 economies classified as belonging to the Asia and the Pacific region, and 92nd out of all the 152 economies that had been included in the study. As for the ICT Price Basket, the ITU computed that the composite cost of ICT services in the Philippines was about 9.2% of the per capita GNI, based on a GNI of USD2,050. As a point of comparison, consider that the top 28 countries included in the study have composite costs of less than 1% of the per capita GNI.

The situation is not much better for the global majority.  As the ITU remarked, “Despite […] encouraging trends, as at end 2010, some 70% of the world’s population (and almost 80% of the developing countries’ population) were not yet using the Internet, and even fewer via a broadband connection.”

 Another study of interest that came out online the year before is the Global Information Technology Report 2010-2011, which is a collaborative effort between the World Economic Forum and INSEAD. The report measures the degree to which countries are leveraging ICT for enhanced competitiveness using the Networked Readiness Index (NRI), which uses a scale of one to seven. The NRI is composed of three sub-indices, and each of these sub-indices is calculated using a particular set of indicators.

The overall networked readiness of our country is 3.6 out of 7, with a rank of 68th out of 138 economies. For the Environment Sub-index, which gauges the market environment, the political and regulatory environment, and the infrastructure environment of a given economy with reference to innovation and ICT development, we got 3.5 out of 7, ranking 94th. For the Readiness Sub-index, which contemplates the readiness of individuals, businesses, and governments to use technology, especially ICT, in their day-to-day activities and operations, we got 3.9 out of 7, ranking 99th. For the Usage Sub-index, which measures the actual ICT usage by the main social sectors of an economy, we got 3.3 out of 7, ranking 71st.

At the risk of oversimplifying, what these two reports tell us is something that we may already suspect, if not know: the Internet in the Philippines is poorly developed and very expensive.

The Global Information Technology Report also includes a number of papers from contributors, including a team from management consulting firm Booz & Company.  Entitled, “Building Communities around Digital Highways”, the authors, led by Karim Sabbagh, make a case for the need for digital highways, which they define as “nationwide high-speed broadband enabled by a combination of fixed as well as wireless networks”, and evaluate their current state. They argue that, “[a]ccelerating the deployment of digital highways and deriving their full benefits […] requires fundamental changes in vision and action throughout the entire broadband ecosystem”, which means that policymakers, operators, device manufacturers, application developers, and other stakeholders should be actively involved in what they call the “broadband ecosystem” . Furthermore, those in the broadband ecosystem must also reach out and collaborate actively with adjacent ecosystems, such as health care, education, and energy, in order to help them maximize digital highways and the advantages these highways can offer each sector.

Obviously, one entity with an important role to play in establishing the broadband ecosystem is our government , so it bears asking what sort of “vision and action” we can expect from it. I will go over three pertinent aspects of the government framework for the Internet.

Last June 29, 2011, the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), headed by chairman Ivan John Uy, launched the Philippine Digital Strategy (PDS) 2011-2016, a five-year plan that professes to be animated by a vision of “a digitally empowered, innovative, globally competitive and prosperous society where everyone has reliable, affordable and secure information access in the Philippines”; “a government that practices accountability and excellence to provide responsive online citizen-centered services”; and “a thriving knowledge economy through public-private partnership”.

Can the PDS, in fact, be able to facilitate the realization of these grand goals? Pro Pinoy editor-in-chief Cocoy Dayao doesn’t believe so, and has suggested in a post that the PDS be scrapped—a point that I agree with, as careful scrutiny of the PDS would reveal that is concerned chiefly with establishing a broadband network for the government, and does not establish clear directions for how to deal with issues that directly affect the growth and proliferation of digital technology, such as the cost of electricity in the country, which, according to an October 2010 study by think tank International Energy Consultants, is the highest in Asia. Of course, any discussion of the merits and demerits of the PDS would seem to be useless at this point, because six days before the plan was launched, President Aquino, by way of Executive Order No. 47, virtually dissolved the CICT: the issuance renamed the commission as the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) and placed it under the Department of Science and Technology, a move that several BPO companies protested. To what extent the ICTO is implementing the PDS, if at all, is not very clear. The administration has said that it does want to set up a national broadband network (NBN), but it will not happen this year, as Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary has said there is no allocation for it yet. And of course, the very concept of an NBN is still politically sensitive—some of you may recall the NBN-ZTE scandal that erupted during the time of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Another matter that I would like to bring up is National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) Memorandum Order (MO) 07-07-2011 .

Let me talk about the context of this order briefly. An issue that had several quarters of the Internet community last year up in arms early last year was a proposed order from the NTC that, while requiring telcos to set a minimum guaranteed speed for connections, would have allowed them to impose bandwidth caps on its subscribers, too—ostensibly on “network abuse” and “anti-piracy” grounds, neither of which holds up under inspection. With reference to “network abuse”, it is simply too vague a term that readily lent itself to abuse by self-interested service providers, thus punishing consumers who simply wish to maximize what they are paying for—which for not a few might mean playing games on Facebook, watching videos on YouTube, and publicizing every stray thought on Twitter 24 hours a day, but there is nothing wrong with any of that. As regards “anti-piracy” concerns, let’s face it: no amount of data restriction could truly be used as a tool to further the cause of “anti-piracy”, because capping would only make piracy slower, not impossible. Several of our writers covered this issue quite thoroughly, and one of them, Pierre Tito Galla, drafted a position paper that was circulated among concerned Internet users before being submitted to the NTC for consideration, as well as published in Pro Pinoy.

Fortunately, as a result of the public outcry, the NTC decided against implementing the aforementioned order. What it issued instead, some months later, was MO 07-07-2011. In some ways, though MO 07-07-2011 looks better than the prior proposal, it is still “ampaw”, as Galla put it in a post. He remarks that while MO 07-07-2011 does require transparency in billing, provide for a minimum monthly service reliability level of 80%, and give Internet service providers (ISPs) flexibility in terms of packaging and pricing their products, it is deficient in terms of the following: it does not provide effectively for pre-paid Internet connectivity, given that reliability is measured on a monthly basis; it does not require service reliability to be measured at the subscriber end; it is silent on data volume capping, despite the NTC asserting that it could regulate broadband services, meaning that telcos, which consider broadband a value-added service, can still impose unreasonable limits; and it does not compel ISPs to establish customer-friendly mechanisms for getting rebates in case the minimum service reliability level is not met. (If you’ve ever had to complain to your ISP about poor service, like I have, you know how absolutely hellish the experience can be—so much so that sometimes the problem almost seems to be your fault all along, starting with the decision to subscribe.)

Allow me now to discuss a recent legislative development . The Senate recently passed Senate Bill No. 2796, which is entitled the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, and has Sen. Edgardo Angara as its principal sponsor. While the bill may be well-intentioned, it suffers from a number of significant flaws, some of which I will identify.

First, the bill, as Sen. TG Guingona pointed out when he voted against it—the only senator to do so—“legislates morality” when it defines cybersex as a crime in this manner: the “willful engagement, maintenance, control, or operation, directly or indirectly, of any lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual activity, with the aid of a computer system, for favor or consideration”. Evidently this provision is designed such that law enforcers can go after operators of cybersex dens, which unfortunately are burgeoning in the Philippines. Note, however, the qualifying phrase: “for favor or consideration”. If we were to compare it to, say, the definition of prostitution under Republic Act No. 9208, or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, which is “any act, transaction, scheme or design involving the use of a person by another, for sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct in exchange for money, profit or any other consideration”, then doesn’t the provision in the bill appear stricter, because broader? “For favor or consideration” and “for money, profit, or any other consideration” do not mean the same thing.

Second, the bill affirms that acts of libel, as set forth in the Revised Penal Code, can be committed in cyberspace. This wouldn’t be a problem, except that our libel law is rather medieval. A case in point: the United Nations Committee on Human Rights ruled in October 2011 that the penalization of journalist Alex Adonis for libel constituted a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Adonis was imprisoned after he lost a defamation suit against former House Speaker Prospero Nograles.

Third, the bill has no provisions that pertain to stalking, bullying, or harassing people in cyberspace, which means that these acts, regardless of duration or degree, would be perfectly legal in the event that the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 is passed into law.

Do our leaders really understand what goes on in cyberspace? I myself am not sure, and it’s a question worth thinking about, because the decisions that our officials make will have an impact—positive or otherwise—on all of us who use the Internet.

 Who are we that will be affected? Who are the Filipino netizens?

The figures I will be citing during the next several slides come from Digital Philippines 2011: Yahoo!-Nielsen Net Index Highlights, a study that was conducted in 22 major cities, including Metro Manila, among 1,500 male and female users, aged 10 and above, across socio-economic classes.

Let’s start with geographic distribution . In the period covered by the report, only 30% of people in national urban Philippines used the Internet in the past month, with 26% in Luzon, 30% in Visayas, and 17% in Mindanao. In Metro Manila, the figure is 43%, while in Cebu and Davao, the figures are 34% and 37%, respectively.

 In terms of age, Internet usage was highest among those aged between 10 and 19 (53%) and between 20 and 29 (43%). Among 30- to 39-year-olds, it was 21%. Among 40- to 49-year-olds, it was 11%. And among those aged 50 and above, it was 3%.

 Where are people accessing the Internet? There are several options, of course, but the dominant option is the Internet café at 66%, nearly double that of the next option, the home, at 35%. Other places of access, such as school or work, have an aggregate of 13%.

 With regard to socio-economic class, usage was highest, unsurprisingly, among classes A, B, and C, at 66%. Among users in class C2, it was 53%, and among users in classes D and E, it was 24%.

These findings tie in with what the social scientist Raul Pertierra pointed out in “The new media and politics? Or the politics of new media?”, a paper that was published in the 2010 anthology The Politics of Change in the Philippines . There, Pertierra said, “With the exception of class, cellphone and Internet use in the Philippines is comparatively neutral. […] Class is the main impediment to a more equitable access to the new media […]”

To put it more starkly: at least 70% of Filipinos have no Internet access.  I say “at least”, because the Yahoo!-Nielsen study focused on urban areas. When we try to think about using the Internet as a means for bringing about social change, we have to remember that we are not reaching a significant majority of our fellow Filipinos: at present, 63 million of them—assuming a conservative population figure of 90 million—are not online.

 What about those who are online? What can we know about their patterns of behavior?

 In terms of content, the five most preferred types are: international music at 68%; local music at 65%; interesting photos and videos at 59%; games at 56%; and technology and gadgets at 55%.

 The top five online activities are: social networking at 82%; search at 80%; instant messaging at 69%; visiting Internet portals at 67%; and visiting public chat rooms at 65%.

The fact that Yahoo!-Nielsen identifies social networking as the top online activity is interesting to juxtapose with data from Wave 3 and Wave 4, which are studies on social media that were undertaken by Universal McCann in 2008 and 2009, respectively. If we put together the numbers from these two latter pieces of research , we find that the social media activities done most frequently by Filipinos are: watching videos at 98.1%; reading blogs at 90.0%; uploading photos at 86.4%; creating a profile on a new social network at 83.1%; and uploading videos at 67.5%.

What should we make of these numbers? When we go online, most of us aren’t there to promote a cause or to advance an agenda, to research for class or to do work—we’re there primarily to amuse ourselves: we listen to music, watch videos, and interact with friends. This preoccupation with entertainment isn’t necessarily bad, of course, but it is something that we do have to bear in mind.

British Council Philippines Digital Technology for Social Change

 One point that I hope should be abundantly clear by now, after all those statistics, is the existence of what is referred to as the digital divide, which is not so much a single chasm as a series of gaps between the Filipinos who are privileged enough to have access to the Internet—which includes us who are gathered here now—and the Filipinos who are not similarly privileged: gaps in knowledge, in literacy, in resources, and in power.  We should ask ourselves, then, whenever we access the great fund of information that is the Internet, how we are using our privilege, and why.

In 1980, the year that Polish poet Czesław Milosz  was hailed as the Nobel Laureate in Literature, he intoned what seems to be both observation and warning during his Nobel lecture—one that is even more germane today: “Our planet that gets smaller every year, with its fantastic proliferation of mass media, is witnessing a process that escapes definition, characterized by a refusal to remember.”

Whether that is true could well be debatable.  It is more difficult, however, to dispute what technology writer Nicholas Carr has said: “As we use what the sociologist Daniel Bell has called our ‘intellectual technologies’ […] we inevitably begin to take on the qualities of those technologies.” Or, as the Jesuit John Culkin put it more succinctly, “We shape our tools, and thereafter they shape us.”

Perhaps, before asking how we can use digital technology to change the world, we should ask how that same technology is changing us. While some of these changes may be for the better, I’m sure all of us are aware of disturbing behaviors that appear to be specific to cyberspace, and my contention is that these are not isolated incidents, but symptomatic of larger problems to which the Internet tends to contribute or exacerbate as medium, and against which we must guard. I will cite two examples.

 Take, for instance, mobbing.  I’m sure all of you know who this guy is: he’s Christopher Lao, who was caught on video by a media outfit trying to drive his car through a flooded street. He failed in the attempt, and his car wound up floating in the water for a while. He immediately became an online sensation when, in reply to an unaired question from the reporter, he cried, “I was not informed”, as he looked like a spoiled brat whining about a thus far inevitable Philippine reality. Vicious comments and hate pages proliferated at dizzying speed online.

His critics neglected to ask some questions, however.

Why did Lao take such a foolish risk? It turned out that he had been rushing home to be with his young daughter, because his wife was stranded in her office.

More crucially: how was that footage taken to begin with? The existence of the video proves that members of the media outfit were present at the scene. Did they think to warn Lao from proceeding down the street? Did they try?

 In any case, as the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) said, “[Apart] from sharing the news, people had started to call Lao names—used rude and/or insulting words to describe him and the incident—in other words, a clear abuse of social media.”

Another example:  failing to exercise critical thinking. The Mosquito Press, a satirical news site, released a story saying that a Harvard study had named Filipinos the most gullible people in the world—a story that was promptly picked up and treated as genuine by no less than a professional writer, The Philippine Star columnist Carmen Pedrosa. This set off a round of much-deserved scorn from several quarters for Pedrosa, but she was unapologetic: in her next column, she declared that it was still true that Filipinos are generally gullible, and her citing the spurious study was precisely to make that point . Manuel Buencamino, another of Pro Pinoy’s writers, had this to say in response: “I’m still in pain from the steaming hot coffee I blew through my nose after I read her column and the ‘correction’ she made the following day.”

 While we’re on the subject of thinking, we might as well ask: How is Internet changing our brains—not only metaphorically, in the sense of the “mind”, but also physiologically? There is quite a lot of literature on the subject, but one paper that I think is worth mentioning was written by child development scholars Maryanne Wolf and Mirit Barzillai.  In “The Importance of Deep Reading”, Wolf and Barzillai redeploy Aristotle’s concept of three lives to talk about how the transition from a print culture to a digital one affects learning. In their view, society at present is able to pursue the life of activity and the life of enjoyment, and the digital learner is well-suited to both these lives. The life of contemplation, however, in spite of its increasingly diminished place in contemporary life, is also important, and is vital to what they call deep reading—“the array of sophisticated processes that propel comprehension and that include inferential and deductive reasoning, analogical skills, critical analysis, reflection, and insight”—which encourages deep thought, and in turn leads to the formation and development of structures in the brain that would otherwise not be so formed or developed. A world that makes no room for the life of contemplation, then, might be one filled with individuals who are less analytical and less purposeful about the information that they encounter: perpetually distracted and easily deluded.  As Wolf says in her book, Proust and the Squid, “We are not only what we read. We are how we read.”

Of course the dangers of distraction and delusion are already very much with us: ours is the age of information overload. And while information can be empowering , it is not always so—mere possession of information does not guarantee action or transformation: an issue that was recognized long before our time. Cultural critic Neil Postman, in Amusing Ourselves to Death, his famous book on—or rather, against—television, locates a watershed in history with the invention of telegraphy, saying that the from this point forward, the information-action ratio of people began to become problematic : “For the first time in human history, people were faced with the problem of information glut, which means that simultaneously they were faced with the problem of a diminished social and political potency.”  For instance, we are bombarded daily, offline and online, by tidbits of data such as what X celebrity was wearing an outfit by Y designer at Z event, but are these things we have to know? Should we care?  Can this information be acted upon in a meaningful way? The Internet has served to increase by leaps and bounds the amount of information we are exposed to, but so much of it is simply distracting—however one understands the Internet to be, it is also, by design, a gigantic distraction machine that, in forcing us to respond—and quickly—to multiple stimuli every time we use it, makes us feel busy and productive even if we’re not actually accomplishing anything.

Henry David Thoreau made a relevant point in Walden when he said, “We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the Old World some weeks nearer to the New; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad, flapping American ear will be that the Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough.”

As I said earlier, this part of presentation is derived from an ongoing process of research into and reflection upon digital media. This process was, in many respects, prompted by my experience with The Pro Pinoy Project, which I will now turn to and talk about.

Pro Pinoy began in late 2009 as a volunteer-run web site that was intended to achieve the goal of increasing public awareness of the national and local elections that took place in May 2010, with a particular focus on the hotly contested race for the presidency. It was propelled by the idea that the ballot is the most powerful tool with which the future of the country could be secured.

The site served as an online database of news articles and blog posts on issues of national significance, as well on the track records and promises of the presidential candidates. Over the course of compiling content for publication, we sought to curate the data that they had gathered, occasionally selecting reports that were important but had not received much attention in either the mainstream or new media arenas. Of course, the veritable flood of election-related information was too much for us to keep up with, and therefore updates were made irregularly.

Following the relatively successful conduct of the elections, we decided that the site could serve as more than just a vehicle for voter education. As crucial as this task was, elections occur only once every three years, and, in any case, voting is only one aspect of citizenship. Good citizens must also be sufficiently informed and involved in everyday politics so that they are ready to hold all public servants to their duties, responsibilities, and promises, participate in the contentious process of nation-building themselves, and inspire others to do the same.

We re-launched the site in July 2010, this time offering original, syndicated, or partner-provided content, still mostly on news and current affairs. In February 2011, we decided to go the official route, establishing Pro Pinoy as a non-stock, non-profit corporation.

Pro Pinoy is a very young organization—we turned a year old just a few days ago—but I’m happy to say we’ve managed to rack up a few accomplishments in the short time that we’ve been operating. We have a great team—I’m not saying that just because I’m part of it—producing excellent posts and have been able to form strategic partnerships with other groups. Some of the content that we’ve published, such as the position paper on the broadband capping issue I mentioned earlier, has been cited by mainstream media outfits, and we were recognized in 2010 by the Philippine Blog Awards as the winner in the Society, History, and Politics category. We’ve also managed to maintain a good level of site traffic, even on slow days, and have a fairly active, if not always pleasant, comments section.

Some of our future plans include: redesigning the site, which is ongoing; increasing our lifestyle content; exploring multimedia content options; participating in and facilitating seminars and workshops; and focusing on community news, and it is in that last area that I think all of us here will be able to collaborate: we would be more than happy to help you tell your stories about what is taking place in your neighborhood and your organization.

What exactly does Pro Pinoy do? We’re engaged in what has been called “participatory journalism”. In point of fact, there are several terms for this practice, such as “citizen journalism”, “guerrilla journalism”, “networked journalism”, “open source journalism”, and “street journalism”, and one question that might immediately spring to mind is, “Is it even journalism?” My answer: “At its best, yes, it is journalism.”

Participatory journalism is defined by media consultants Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis in their paper We Media as follows: “[It is] the act of a citizen, or group of citizens, playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information.” This runs the gamut from taking part in a text poll to undertaking investigations of an issue, and marks a departure from the relatively linear news model, which involves a media organization, influenced to some degree by advertisers, filtering and packaging information first before delivering it via a platform, such as a newspaper or a television show, to a mass audience.

In theory, members of the audience have always been able to speak back. If I want to react to a story, I can write a letter to the editor or express my response with my remote control or my wallet. What makes participatory journalism interesting and exciting, however, are all the conversations that take place simultaneously throughout the discursive environment, allowing the community to make itself felt in shaping news agendas.

I want to make it clear that participatory journalism is not a second-rate, trying hard copycat of traditional journalism, but a very different model altogether—one that is more about complementing, rather than competing with, how the business of news is being carried out by mainstream outfits. (Most of you probably don’t recognize this because you’re too young—it’s a screen capture of the legendary scene in Bituing Walang Ningning, where Cherie Gil throws a glass of water into Sharon Cuneta’s face.)

What, then, is participatory journalism for? Why do it? It allows for a more collaborative and more transparent process of information-gathering, admits a wider range of views, and facilitates the creation of richer, more intimate stories and conversations—the information we receive takes on tones and textures that it might not otherwise have, and therefore the quality and relevance of such is potentially higher. It also fosters in us a stronger sense of responsibility and control over our world, which is critical to a vibrant democracy.

2010 was actually an important turning point for participatory journalism, because for the first time in Philippine history, the Commission on Elections issued accreditation IDs to bloggers and online media organizations covering the elections—a development paralleled by the candidates’ incorporation of a wide array of digital tools, including social media, into their respective campaigns.

The Internet, as I’ve already shown, is a highly limited platform, and thus little that was done there could be said to have had dramatic impact on the outcome of the polls, but as Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist John Nery observed, “[…] what online does very well, even in the Philippine setting, is to create buzz. It […] can certainly be used to create word of mouth, to pique public curiosity and interest, to drive old media coverage.”

The CMFR also weighed in, saying, “[The coverage of online sites] provided a deeper look into issues overlooked by the mainstream media [and] provided a holistic approach to understanding the 2010 elections by balancing the sensational reports with critical stories.”

The Internet, of course, has a long way to go before becoming a true game-changer: while a 2010 Pulse Asia survey conducted from February 21 to 25 showed that media was the most influential source of information in choosing a president (64%), the most influential medium was TV (56%).

It might be helpful at this juncture to go over some of the findings in a study conducted by communication consultancy firm EON, Inc. from May to June 2011. Called the “Philippine Trust Index”, it sought to measure the level of public trust in key institutions: the church, the government, private industries, non-government organizations, and the media.

Among the 500 respondents, 64% said that they trusted the media “Very Much” and “Somewhat Much”. Asked to express their trust in an array of media channels, the results (“Very Much” and “Somewhat Much”) were as follows: 74% for television; 68% for online news sites; 66% each for newspapers and radio; 47% for social networking sites; and 37% for blogs. The latter two figures present an obvious challenge for participatory journalism, which, after all, relies on and is generated by social networking sites and blogs.

What, according to the same study, are the key drivers of trust in media? Fifty-eight percent said truthfulness; 35% said adherence to fairness; 3% said balanced reporting of good and bad news; and 2% each said delivery of news with social relevance and other reasons. It does not seem unreasonable to infer, then, that barriers to trust for participatory journalism include lack of editorial oversight, unethical practices, and the refusal to take responsibility—barriers that are not unrelated to the problematic behaviors of mobbing and uncritical thinking that I discussed previously.

If you’ve been following the impeachment proceedings of Chief Justice Renato Corona online, you may be familiar with what befell Raissa Robles, a professional journalist and a blogger. The Manila correspondent for the South China Morning Post, Robles has been assiduously working to bring out into the open, via her blog, issues and materials that are related to the charges that have been filed against Corona, and her laudable efforts have earned her no small amount of controversy. Recently, accusations surfaced that Robles was the “small lady” who had given Rep. Reynaldo Umali, a member of the prosecution panel, photocopies of documents pertaining to Corona’s deposit accounts in Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank). The information spread very quickly in the Internet community, in the manner of many a sensational story, but what facilitated the rapid dissemination of this particular rumor was a popular citizen media site that reported it without bothering to verify with Robles herself, who had issued categorical denials through Twitter and, later, in her blog. Mulling over the incident, Robles criticized the site and said, “This first-hand experience has given me a ringside view of how gossip turns viral and mutates in the process. And how people feel they can say anything on the Internet without any consequences or care.”

What happened was appalling for us at Pro Pinoy, of course, not only because it was downright irresponsible, but also because it would have a detrimental effect on how the public perceives participatory journalism. That said, we are more than willing to face the challenges that lie ahead of us, and look forward to overcoming them as a team.

By now, I’m sure I’ve brought up more issues and questions than we have ready, final answers for. My purpose, however, is not to befuddle unto paralysis—as I said at the beginning of my talk, I think it important to be keenly conscious of our context. As would-be change-makers, it behooves us to be aware that the task of social transformation, particularly using digital means, is freighted not only with promise—which the succeeding speakers will doubtless be able to show in their respective presentations—but also with peril, and we cannot realize the one without dealing thoughtfully and carefully with the other.

Thank you very much.

Philippines' Sky broadband says Japan Earthquake affected its Internet link

This from Skybroadband:

“To all SKYBROADBAND subscribers: The earthquake and Tsunami that hit Japan a few hours ago affected our international link, resulting to slow browsing or disruption of internet connectivity. We are trying to acquire additional capacity to mitigate the impact. Please bear with us. Thank you.”

Are we really free?

I’ve encountered some people who claim that with EDSA 1, we recovered democracy but not freedom. I don’t know what their definition of freedom is but here’s what good ol’ Webster says:

Well, what we are currently enjoying in our land sounds like freedom to me.

Let’s look at the internet, the virtual land where freedom may truly exist. Yuxiyou.net published an interesting infographics on censorship on the internet and see how our country is faring.

Yep that is indeed blue which stands for “no censorship.” Do they think that if we didn’t gain freedom 25 years ago we will be enjoying this status? More like we’ll be emo black like China where there is pervasive censorship. Not only do we have freedom online but we are truly free.

We have freedom of speech.

We have freedom of expression.

We have freedom of the press.

And we have freedom to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.

All of these we didn’t have before EDSA People Power.

Philippine telcos to impose Broadband cap

BusinessMirror published, “Broadband providers to offer new packages,”

“Data provided by the Philippine Chamber of Telecommunications Operators (PCTO) has it that about 5 percent to 7 percent hog the 80 percent of the available bandwidth, leaving only 20 percent of the capacity to be shared by 93 percent to 95 percent of the users.

Smart Communications Inc., for instance, has started campaigning on how to choose the best Internet package available nowadays. Besides this, executives said last week it will introduce a whole new set of packages to suit varying needs of users.

“We will change the way how people use the Internet now, and the key to that is to customize the right package or plan that’s best for them, because people have different needs,” said Smart head for broadband services Gio Bacareza.

In its campaign, Smart said that higher Internet speeds won’t always mean a better Web experience. The upper limit supported by any service provider, Smart said, could be anywhere upward of 56 kbps, with a range reaching up to more than 15 Mbps in some cases, depending on the type of connection used. In practice, however, the claimed speed or bandwidth is not always reliably available to the customer.

Ars Technica wrote on Canada’s experience with Data Caps:

“Wired ISPs have large fixed costs of building and maintaining their last mile network of residential cable and fiber. The ISPs’ costs, however, to deliver a marginal gigabyte, which is about an hour of viewing, from one of our regional interchange points over their last mile wired network to the consumer is less than a penny, and falling, so there is no reason that pay-per-gigabyte is economically necessary. Moreover, at $1 per gigabyte over wired networks, it would be grossly overpriced.”

The big question now is how these kind of billing changes will impact ‘Net consumption patterns. Many subscribers use minimal data, but that’s changing as Internet video becomes the norm. If these new plans simply discourage data hogs from backing up their 120GB pirated movie collection over the ‘Net every night, there’s no sleep to be lost. But if they scare consumers away from legitimate non-ISP affiliated movie and content sharing sites, that should be a firebell concern to consumers, entrepreneurs, and regulators.

And not only in Canada.

Exactly. When will these people learn, the Problem with Content is Content Licensing, not the the Network.

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.

25 years of rejecting kings, presidents, and voting

“We reject kings, presidents and voting. We believe in rough consensus and running code,” David Clark spoke those famous words, and for 25 years those words guided the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in how it sets technical standards on the Internet. The IETF is a standards body made up of… wait for it… anyone. There is no membership to speak of, well except if you join their mailing list, and everyone is welcome to join.

Ars Technica wrote an excellent read if you want to know more about the IETF. Here’s a snippet:

The Internet Engineering Task Force turned 25 yesterday. In that quarter century, 79 meetings were held in 15 countries and 4,500 RFCs (requests for comment) were written, resulting in 70 Internet Standards and 155 current best practices. Many more protocols are proposed standards and are often widely used, but haven’t made it to standard status—yet. This includes HTTP, for instance.

The IETF grew out of a group for government contractors working on the ARPANET who got together a few times a year to discuss what needed to be done to improve the network. In the intervening 25 years, it turned into a standards organization that creates standards related to the technical operation of the Internet.

Rough consensus translates to what is the dominant view point of the group. The interest of the IETF is that it is interested in “practical, and working systems that could be quickly implemented.”

Is there something, we Filipinos could learn from rough consensus?

The rough consensus is that we are not a rich nation and that incapacity exists. Looking at it under the context of charter change, In many ways, the answer has always been making the best with what we got, and building on top of it. In search of the most bang for the buck; and it will never be a perfect system. And politics would always be a series of compromises, imperfect.

Engineering and politics have one thing in common. In both spheres, the world is imperfect and every implementation is already partly a failure. The world is imperfect and while we attempt to build perfect systems, there will always be flaws in everything we do.

The second important quote that describes what the IETF is, and how it does business is known as Postel’s Law: “Be conservative in what you send and liberal in what you accept.” In my humble opinion it also works in a democracy.



Image credit: 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.