Voting 240-7, the House of Representatives approved on 3rd and final reading House Bill (HB) No. 7332, the measure renewing the franchise of Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company (Mislatel), now known as the 3rd telco player, Dito Telecommunity.
The franchise for the Dennis Uy-led telco swiftly hurdled the lower chamber in under 3 months – from the filing of the bill to the 3rd reading approval. HB No. 6917, the original bill, was filed on June 6, while the committee report was filed on August 10 and was approved on 2nd reading a day later.
With the bill's passage in the lower chamber, the Senate can now start deliberations on Dito's franchise.
Dito's original franchise under Mislatel is set to expire on April 24, 2023. If signed into law, HB No. 7332 would allow Dito to operate for 25 years after the franchise's expiration.
A condition under Section 8 on the terms of franchise, however, states that the franchise would be deemed revoked if Dito fails to operate continuously for two years.
While this is a standard condition for franchise renewals, Dito has yet to roll out commercially. It missed its technical rollout deadline last July and was granted a 6-month extension to complete building 1,600 cell towers.
Despite the delay, Dito had said it is "on track" to meet its public rollout target in March 2021.
Under the terms of reference, Dito can miss targets twice. More than that, the telco would lose its P24-billion performance bond.
Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public services, had also warned that if Dito fails to deliver on its commitments, Congress may revoke its franchise. (IN CHARTS: Udenna Corp-China Telecom's promises)
Dito committed to cover at least 37% of the population in its 1st year of business and up to 84% in its 5th year. It also promised to provide internet speed of 27 megabits per second (Mbps) on average for the 1st year.