STRONGER PARTNERSHIP. Cebuanos are calling for a stronger public-private partnership in the quest for improvement in the telecommunications industry. Cebu Province 6th District Rep. Emmarie Ouano-Dizon, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella and Cebu City South District Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa (from left to right) expressed their support to President Rodrigo Duterte's call for the giant telecommunications firms in the country to shape up and improve their internet connectivity. (PNA photos by John Rey Saavedra and from Facebook)

CEBU CITY – Cebuanos supported President Rodrigo Duterte's desire for improved service by the telecommunications industry, with officials suggesting stronger public-private partnership in strengthening the internet backbone and common folks calling for transparent review of the firms' commitment to the public.

Mayor Edgardo Labella said improved services of the giant companies to their consumers are long overdue, stressing that “internet connectivity is critical for the workers and students” now that they are working remotely due to the public health crisis.

Cebu City’s South District Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa said he will file a bill in the House of Representatives that will usher a strong collaboration between the government and the telecommunications companies in the construction and operation of “hard infrastructure facilities such as the cell sites”.

He suggested a formation of an inter-agency body comprising representatives from different departments like the Department of Information and Communications Technology, National Telecommunications and Communications, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of the Interior and Local Government and local government units (LGUs) that will work to improve internet connection.

“With the government’s power to expropriate land properties for public use, and with better coordination with the LGUs, the propagation and redundancy of cell sites can be greatly facilitated,” he said.

The lawmaker said these “shared facilities will level the playing field for both old and new telco players, and promote competition for the best service the people deserve".

Talisay City Mayor Gerald Anthony Gullas agreed with Duterte on “the need for faster and better connectivity to be provided by our telco companies”.

He said that “better and faster internet and mobile connectivity will be greatly useful, especially that the President is firm in his decision to not allow students to undergo face-to-face classes nationwide".

Sixth District Rep. Emmarie Ouano-Dizon thanked Duterte for being “committed on other concerns that matter to most Filipinos” on top of his reassurance to the public in facing the challenges against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

“To this generation, internet is a basic need. It benefits everyone, regardless kung kinsa ka, or asa ka (who you are or where you are). It encompasses everything like e-governance, e-commerce that gives livelihood opportunities to millions, and on-line education,” she said.

Commenting on slow internet and broadband connectivity, Dizon said “it is not easy to survive the times without the internet kay parte na kini sa kinabuhi, ug panginabuhi, so daku kaayo atong pasalamat ni (as it becomes part of the lives and livelihood, so I should thank big to) President Duterte for his promise to shape up the telecom sector”.

Nigel Wenceslao, an industrial engineer and businessman, said service commitment of giant telecom organizations must be reviewed, noting that complaints to their hotlines and customer service representatives would remain unattended even up to a year.

“The problem at our home landline has not has been fixed for almost one year. We keep paying for the bundle – landline plus internet – but we don’t get what we have paid for,” Wenceslao told the Philippine News Agency.

He also cited the “deceiving offer” to the consumers. “The bandwidth we are getting is for example 20 mbps (megabit per second) subscription but it’s only up to the said maximum but we never get what we have subscribed (for)," he said.

The businessman urged the national government to help fast track the start of operation of the third telco or, cancel their (existing telcos) franchise to give way to reliable providers.

Government regulators, he said, should also look at the unfair practices of the telcos requiring a lock-in period where consumers are obliged to pay the monthly bill of his or her subscriptions despite the poor connection and service.

Maria Dianne Rallon, a senior project and development officer of the Metro Cebu Water District, said “in this time of pandemic, government agencies and other stakeholders need a fast internet for industry and clientele transactions.”

She, however, lamented that her service provider is cutting off subscriptions to consumers who failed to pay during the enhanced community quarantine in Cebu.

“I also think that shaping up must not be limited to the telcos alone. The government, for its part, has to shape up, as well, in terms of creating an environment where tech and IT businesses thrive through seamless, efficient systems and collaboration,” Pierre Jabagat, a nurse, said.

Jabagat said the Filipinos are “seeing many of that getting revealed at this time of the pandemic when less-to-no-contact transactions are favored,” adding that there are still “many government services and transactions that just could not be done without going physically to an office”.

Vice Mayor Michael Rama said: “We need really serious help, and not only serious help, expected support from utilities like Globe, Smart and others.”

In his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, Duterte warned telecom companies to improve their service, otherwise they would face expropriation.

In a statement, Globe Telecom said it will heed the President’s call.

“This year, Globe has earmarked 1.2 billion US dollars in capex, majority of which goes to network and capacity builds. These substantial investments are paying off as we experience marked service improvements. Today, the Globe network is running at 4G/LTE. Last year, we launched 5G for Globe At Home and soon we will be launching mobile 5G services in the country. Globally, we are being cited for having improved internet experience. Only recently, independent mobile analytics Open Signal ranked the Philippines as the 4th most improved country in mobile video experience. The ranking was included in its State of Mobile Network Experience in 2020 report,” the company said.

Globe, however, pointed out the challenges faced by the telecom industry, saying that the “long drawn permitting process across LGUs, HOAs (homeowner associations) and national agencies including the DOH (Department of Health) and CAAP (Civil Aviation and Aeronautics Board) have hampered cellsite builds and laying down of fiber to homes". (PNA)