"It's so difficult to understand what you guys are saying."
"My apologies. My internet connection is not as good as I like."
"Nawalan ng signal?" (He lost connection?)
These were among the exchanges during the Senate hearing Wednesday, July 1, on the status of internet connection, forcing an irked Senator Grace Poe to suspend the hearing earlier than expected.
On Wednesday, Poe even had to log into the Webex videoconferencing app using her son's account, as the Senate server could not connect to the internet.
In what Poe called a "comedy of errors," the panel had to endure poor internet connection – a first-hand experience of what the committee sought to tackle.
"I would like to continue this hearing after we thresh out this problem with our connection. It's quite ironic, again, that we are having connectivity issues in a hearing on connectivity," Poe said.
"It's just telling, the situation in our country today, and how we are trying to cope with this new requirement that we all need to have fulfilled," the senator said.
To add to the misfortune, the telco representatives during the hearing were not spared from bad connection.
Poe called Roy Ibay, vice president of Smart Communications' legal and regulatory group, for updates on their cellular tower construction, but her questions were met with silence.
"Smart?" Poe called Ibay. After a long pause, she said, "'Di tayo marinig." (We're not being heard.)
Dito Telecommunications chief administration officer Adel Tamano, meanwhile, apologized for his internet connection as he could not properly hear some of the questions.
It's not the first time a Senate inquiry was marred by technical problems, but Senator Nancy Binay said that Wednesday's hearing was the "worst."
Binay jokingly asked about the internet speed at the Senate building in Pasay City – which she said was not enough.
Annoyed by the service, Poe told Converge ICT, the internet provider at the Senate: "Baka kaya mura." (Maybe that's why it's cheap.) Converge's starting rate is at P1,500 for a speed of 25 megabits per second – the cheapest among providers.
If the situation persists, Poe said she will require the resource persons to attend succeeding hearings in person.
"Akala n'yo titigilan ko kayo? Hindi." (You think I will stop asking questions? No.) "If I have to require your physical presence here next time, I will," Poe said.
"This is the worst actually. I have attended a few hearings, too, and the last hearing of Senator Win [Gatchalian], the one who couldn't connect was NTC (National Telecommunications Communications," added Poe, referring to Deputy Commissioner Ed Cabarios who skipped the hearing also due to internet problems. – Rappler.com