By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Sen. Grace Poe has refiled her bill seeking to improve Internet service and access across the country.
“The internet has become a necessity as indispensable as electricity and water. We rely on it for health, education, business, governance, and more,” Poe explained.
Her proposed measure titled “Better Internet Act” aims to provide fast, reliable, secure, and affordable internet. It seeks to require internet service providers (ISPs) to widen their reach and establish a minimum and consistent internet connection speed.
“Service providers must pick up and maintain an acceptable internet speed to boost connectivity across sectors and empower our people,” Poe said.
“Undoubtedly, the internet has become an essential tool to survive and thrive. We should therefore bolster public access to it,” she emphasized.
Under the bill, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) shall require all public telecommunications entities (PTEs) and ISPs to extend and expand the service coverage of fixed and mobile internet service in all unserved and underserved areas within three years from the effectiveness of the measure.
PTEs and ISPs are strongly encouraged to provide a higher internet speed and deliver a minimum standard for connection speed to their subscribers.
There shall be no required minimum internet speed for free internet service.
If passed into law, telcos and ISPs shall have three years to ensure that they provide no lower than the minimum required download speeds to their end-users.
The NTC shall enforce providers’ compliance on internet speed, quality, and consistency, as well as other coverage obligations to subscribers.
“PTEs and ISPs must meet the minimum standards on connection, reception, just pricing and billing practices to promote and protect the rights of consumers of internet services,” the bill explained.
Those who cannot comply with the required internet service standards shall be fined not less than P200,000 and not more than P2,000,000 for each count of violation. If a service provider’s yearly gross income is less than P10,000,000, the penalty is 1 percent to 2 percent of its annual gross income.
“Ensuring access to fast and affordable internet connection is not only an option if we want our country and people to be competitive. It should be a priority,” Poe said.
It can be recalled that Poe urged then-President Duterte to direct all government agencies to remove obstacles to and expedite the approval of telco infrastructure construction to improve internet access. She also backed the inclusion of the necessary provision in the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act that resulted in faster installation of connection framework across the country. (ai/mtvn)