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Filipino Netizens Debate Proposed Broadband Caps

Categories: East Asia, Philippines, Technology

Just before 2011 kicked in, Filipino netizens were treated to a year-end shock as the National Telecommunications Commission or NTC announced a draft memorandum [1] order containing new rules for local Internet Service Providers to follow.

Included were provisions that require ISPs to state the minimum speed of the internet connections they are offering and a guarantee for service reliability. However, all of these were overshadowed by one provision that has sparked debate and on-line movements amongst Filipino internet users: ISPs are now allowed to set a maximum volume of data a subscriber can consume in a day.

Bloggers once more lead the charge in objecting to the proposed internet data cap. Cocoy has written an open letter to President Aquino [2] expressing why he thinks that the draft NTC memorandum order would negatively impact economic growth in the Philippines. In summary, he wrote:

The NTC draft memorandum to put caps on Internet usage is regressive. It does both business and consumer no good. It will not encourage telecoms to reinvest to improve their service, and help the broader market unlock our potential. #

Blogger and journalist Tonyo Cruz aptly states why the NTC draft memorandum is a step in the wrong direction [3]:

The NTC misses the entire point of the problematic broadband internet connections in the Philippines: They are slow, unreliable and expensive compared to other countries in the region. But the NTC would not know this because the agency has not, up to now, sat down, studied and resolved to define what broadband internet really is.

Jed Mallen tells it from his own experience on how imposing bandwidth caps can wreak havoc on good internet users [4] the policy is supposed to protect:

I was downloading the new Slackware release about a month ago via Globe Tattoo and after a while got an SMS message via their app that goes something like — fair usage policy is imposed. 800 mb is the limit. I was using their Php 50/24 hours promo. Yes my download stopped.

How about that? That’s not piracy. That’s a free operating system that I have been using for the last 10+ years.

In his opposition to the broadband cap, Jules Mariano offers some friendly advice to the NTC [5]:

My advice to NTC is to conduct an investigation on the disabling service of ISPs and how their pricing fits to the global marketplace and check if they are overcharging or not, OR if the service fee they are charging consumers is commensurate to the kind of service they are offering. Don’t ever compare NTC’s broadband capping idea to the other countries such as the USA and Australia because these countries offer better Internet connectivity than what we have here in the Philippines.

Blogger Manila gives a little historical anecdote in saying why the broadband cap is bad news [6]:

When Tim Berners Lee established the public use of Internet around 1990, it was meant to give free access (not necessarily ‘use’ as per copyright) to the general public and share information over the web for the sake of knowledge and information accessibility. Placing a limit on this is just counter-intuitive.

However, bloggers and netizens are not unanimous in opposing the proposed bandwidth caps. Instead of being furious and proclaiming doomsday scenarios, some have welcomed the draft NTC memorandum order including the controversial broadband caps, albeit with conditions.

First, benign0 takes on one of the premises on Cocoy's arguments [7] for opposing the broadband caps:

But Cocoy's blog post, is trying to make a case for maximum access to the Net at maximum speeds for consumers. However, there seems to be no specific and tangible relationship between an individual's earning capacity and his/her access to the Net — except perhaps in the case of truly creative individuals who add original content to the Web that command a premium from a broad base of consumers (meaning not only their friends and family members).

But guess what, in the case of the majority of people with access to the Net, much of what they contribute (upload to the Web) is junk or at least relevant only to a small circle of friends and family members. And much of what they consume (download from the Web) is junk as well, representing more of productivity loss — time wasted looking at — or perving on — pictures of their friends’ drunken escapades on Facebook, watching “scandal” videos on YouTube, etc.).

Top tech blogger Abe Olandres shares some perspective from the network engineers’ side and would only accept reasonable bandwidth caps [8]:

The throttling and capping of bandwidth to supplement time-based services allows the service providers to regulate the network and separate the heavy users from the regular users.

I don’t like the idea of putting caps but I’m okay with it as long as it’s a reasonable one. Just give me that 1Mbps speed I actually subscribed to. I hope this draft memorandum gets pushed thru so we can all get that 80% minimum guarantee on subscribed internet speeds.

Mr A goes a bit further and reasons that users may pay for their subscription plans but it doesn't buy them the entire network for their own self-centered habits or usages [9]:

There are other solutions to problems. Some are practical, some are just plain lazy. ISPs caps is a good way of decongesting the already abused network. This also bring solutions in providing a much more cheaper internet scheme for users. Better yet, have a much more updated bucket scheme. Like I said. Not everybody downloads on Steam everyday. Not everybody is a Linux Junkie, and certainty, wireless caps will not end the distribution of information. Everybody need to observe that everyone is using the network, even if they paid for it. You don’t own it. In then end, mind your manners.

The NTC has called for a public hearing for this draft memorandum order this January 11th where it is hoped that all concerned stakeholders would be able to meet and discuss the issues openly and achieve a win-win solution. Until then, this issue of broadband caps is far from over.