Walang signal? NTC skips Senate hearing on online learning

A telecommunications agency having connectivity issues?

The National Telecommunications Commission – which regulates telcos and broadcast firms – failed to attend the Senate hearing on distance learning on Thursday, June 25, as the agency encountered a "technical problem."

Senator Francis Tolentino called NTC Deputy Commissioner Ed Cabarios for the agency's position on the issue, but the latter was not responding.

Tolentino asked Cabarios to unmute, but there was no response. "Sir, are you there? NTC?" Tolentino asked.

"Walang signal ang NTC ah (The NTC doesn't have a signal). It's a very good omen," Tolentino said in jest. "NTC, naririnig 'nyo kami? (NTC, do you hear us?)" he asked again.

Without any response from Cabarios, Tolentino said that the NTC should have the "fastest" internet connection as a regulator.

"I think you're just here in Metro Manila. NTC, you don't have any signal. NTC, are you still practicing state of the art technology? We can't hear you," Tolentino asked.

Tolentino wanted to know from the NTC how broadcasting classes could be conducted on different platforms such as radio and TV, especially in far-flung areas. Tolentino said he hasn't heard how online platforms could be used.

A few minutes later, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, the Senate committee on basic education chairperson, called the NTC again.

"Commissioner Cabarios? Okay na ho ba kayo? (Are you okay now?) Commissioner Cabarrios? Mukhang may technical problems po ang NTC. (NTC seems to be having technical problems," the senator said.

"'Pag may technical problems ang NTC, parang nawawalan ako ng pag-asa sa online learning na mangyayari sa bansa natin dahil ang NTC ang regulator ng telcos," Gatchalian added.

(If the NTC has technical problems, I'm losing hope that online learning can happen in our country because the NTC is the regulator of telcos.)

Gatchalian quipped that the NTC should fix its connectivity problems, so he could continue to "hope" that online learning is feasible.

Cabarios, in a message to Rappler, explained that the agency encountered a problem in their internal internet network. "Hopefully, it gets fixed today," the NTC official said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Senators and stakeholders during the Senate hearing raised concerns about online learning as many teachers and students don't have access to the internet or have weak connectivity. Besides, a good internet connection is pricey. (READ: Duterte on DepEd's distance learning: 'I don't know if we're ready')

The Department of Education also said that less than half of the country's 800,000 public school teachers have not been trained for distance learning.

Classes are supposed to open on August 24, but a bill delaying the start of classes has yet to be signed by President Rodrigo Duterte. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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