Reasons why our Internet speeds are so slow

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila - The Philippine Star

It’s that time of the year when Globe Telecom invites selected media personalities from the Visayas and Mindanao for special Globe events. I’ve been attending this annual events for nearly 15 years now and I always look forward to meeting our counterparts from Mindanao, mostly from Cagayan de Oro and Davao City and the Visayas, notably Iloilo and Bacolod media so we could share and compare notes from amongst each other.

Because it is election season, the first “tsismis” on the table was whether the Mindanao media is supporting Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte? To my surprise they gave a feeble “Yes,” but with certain conditions. Apparently most in the media are afraid that press freedom would be curtailed under a strong Duterte presidency.

Indeed, too many in the media especially in Mindanao have been killed for speaking out openly against oppressive mayors who double as the local warlords who cannot take any criticism. When they hear negative reports on radio or read them in newspapers, they don’t go to courts, but send their goons to threaten or worse, kill the messenger! So will this be the environment under a Duterte presidency? I hope Mayor Duterte can give us certain assurances for the safety of the media.

With the elections for local government officials underway, call it timely that during the launching of the One Digital Nation at the Grand Ballroom of the Marriott Hotel, Globe Telecom president and CEO Ernest Cu answered the most difficult issue of all… slow Internet speeds. Few CEOs would dare open themselves in a room packed with media from all over the country and I salute Ernest Cu for his courage.

Mr. Cu told us that the plan of Globe Telecom was to increase capacity by as much as 70 percent for both mobile and wireline customers which they have earmarked $1 billion for network modernization. They intend to put fiber optic wires to 20,000 barangays, which would translate to two million homes by the Year 2020. Well… this is a good plan. But there’s a catch. While this is what Globe Telecom (and I’m sure that PLDT/Smart also has the same or similar plan) intends to do, they just cannot pull this through unless they get the cooperation of the local government units.

This was the appeal by Globe’s Ernest Cu to the media in attendance last Monday evening where he spoke not as the Globe president, but rather he made an appeal for the media to help the telecom industry get through the bureaucratic maze or blocks created by narrow-minded politicians who claim to be public servants.

Mr. Cu showed us a chart that gave everyone an idea why Internet speeds are so slow in the Philippines, which has some 15,000 cellsites all over the country. In comparison, Vietnam has 55,000 cellsites, Indonesia 76,477 cellsites while Thailand has 52,483 cellsites. Even Bangladesh beat the Philippines with 27,000 cellsites. This means that the work of the telecom companies is cut out for them. While telecom providers are more than eager to build more capacity with more cellsites, they are hostaged by the bureaucracy of the local government units, or worse, corruption.

So when you are experiencing slow Internet speed, stop cursing the telcos but start cursing your local government officials who are making it difficult for telcos to set up more cellsites in your area.  For instance, it takes a minimum of 25 permits before any cellsite can be approved and if the local government unit were cooperative…it would still take at least eight months to construct and install a cellsite.

With the local elections underway, perhaps you Netizens out there ought to make this an election issue in your locality. In my book, any local government who blocks any Telco from building more cellsites is blocking our constitutional right to Free Speech! In short, it is time for us Digital Citizens to take the matter on our own hands and during this campaign, extract a campaign promise from those local politicians for them to make it easier for Telco’s to open up new cellsites so they can increase their capacity and decongest our congested telephone systems.

In another impassioned appeal before the media, Mr. Ernest Cu asked the media for support in releasing the 700MHZ which is now being held by San Miguel Corporation (SMC) to be used by other Telco’s, which would greatly improve everyone’s Internet speeds.

While the Globe event was exclusive to Globe’s launching of the One Digital Nation, it was the first time that Mr. Ernest Cu was speaking more on behalf of the entire Telecommunications Industry. My message to the Local Government Units (LGU) is for them to open their eyes and realize that having a fast Internet speed in their localities opens them to the possibility of joining the Business Outsourcing Process (BPO) bandwagon, which is why Cebu and Davao has grown economically.

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For email responses to this article, write to vsbobita@mozcom.com or vsbobita@gmail.com. His columns can be accessed through www.philstar.com.

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