NTC summons Globe on data caps, eyes new fair use rules
MANILA, Philippines – The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) is looking into instituting new rules following increasing complaints regarding telecommunications companies' data service caps.
It has also called in Froilan Castelo, Globe Telecom's senior vice president, to explain the data capping they have implemented.
NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba noted, "The Commission has received several complaints on your alleged data capping. Complaints alleged that you are placing them on the network with slow data connection once they reached a certain volume of data of one gigabyte (GB)."
Cordoba directed Castelo to submit comment and explanation for the increasing complaints on or before February 12.
NTC director Edgardo Cabarrios also said the NTC is "now studying if there is a need to promulgate new rules to cover this issue."
Demokrasya.net.ph, a group which drafted the Cybercrime Law alternative called the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom, explained data capping in the Philippines.
Data caps, also called bandwidth or broadband capping, is a method by which Internet service providers (ISPs), network service providers, and telecommunications groups manage or control their data. This is done through a process known as throttlling, where the amount of data sent and received on a given communications channel – or bandwidth – is lessened.
Data caps are often stated in service providers' fair use policies. Fair use policies are meant to be enforced to protect abuses, such as the illegal sharing of copyrighted material or media and text message spamming using unlimited messaging promotions.
The Demokrasya.net.ph statement also carries a compiled list of Philippine fair use policies.
Fair use and fairness
Globe released a statement on Friday, February 7, to state their case, noting how they implemented a fair use policy in 2010 to deal with prepaid calls, texts, and data promos, only enforcing the policy for postpaid data plans in January 2014.
In the statement, Castelo clarified that the fair use policy "is an industry issue that is being implemented by all telco players in the country, even globally in the most advanced economies."
The statement explained that network data traffic reports showed a surge in peak hours, From a general data usage rate of 12 gigabits per second (Gbps) in 2011, that number has sweeled to 47 Gbps in 2013.
Heavy users represented less than 3% of total data subscribers but consumed a disproportionate amount of data that Globe says "has led to a degradation of network performance during peak periods of the day and clearly affecting the majority of subscribers who use data prudently." Globe reiterates its stance by saying that the implementation of its fair use policy will curb piracy and illegal torrenting, as well as abuses.
Demokrasya.net.ph's statement notes that data capping isn't necessarily good or bad, but points out that its usage in the Philippines can punish "both the innocent and the abusive users."
Their statement explains that data caps are investor-centric rather consumer-centric, that data capping discourages competition by capping rival services in favor of one provider's particular services, and that data capping may have legitimate effects on economic progress as well as human development.
Communicating with subscribers
NTC director Cabarrios pointed out that telecommunications companies can impose data caps on the data consumption of their subscribers, but said these policies "should be communicated well with the subscribers. Consumers have the right to know what they are getting into."
New guidelines to be set up would also cover Smart Communications, unit of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), though Cabarrios mentioned that the NTC is not receiving as many complaints as those against Globe. The NTC is also unsure as to whether Smart is implementing its data cap.
Globe has 36.5 million users total, comprising 34.53 million Globe and TM prepaid subscribers and 1.98 million postpaid users.
PLDT's cellular subscribers are 72.5 million, while Smart Communications has 24.7 million subscribers and Talk N' Text has 31.9 million. Digital Telecommuncations Philippines has 15.8 million Sun Cellular users. PLDT also has a combined broadband subscriber base of 3.3 million.
The Philippines has the third-slowest Internet speed in locations surveyed in Asia and the Pacific by content delivery network Akamai, ahead of Indonesia and India. – Rappler.com
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