Telecom power

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Following President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat of “expropriation” to the country’s two telecommunication companies during his State of the Nation Address, giving them up to December to shape up, shares of PLDT Smart and Globe Telecom tumbled on the Philippine Stock Exchange.

The most common complaint against the two telcos is slow internet speeds, which the Speedtest Global Index puts mobile download speed in the Philippines at around 16.17 megabits per second compared to the global average of 34.67 Mbps.

With the entire country seen to rely more on telecommunications for work and school in the coming months as we continue to struggle with the challenges posed by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic that has been exacerbated by a lukewarm government response and strategy thus far, the need to upgrade telco services has indeed become an existential concern for most Filipinos.

The president himself threatening expropriation to the country’s underperforming telecom companies after the shutdown of the country’s largest media network may spur them into delivering better services within the imposed deadline but we can only hope that he is referring to the entire telco industry, including the new player, China-backed DITO Telecommunity owned by his staunch supporter and Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy.

While Smart and Globe have been providing less-than-stellar services, DITO is yet to provide services and might’ve failed its network’s scheduled technical audit scheduled last July 8 had the National Telecommunications Commission not given the company a six-month extension to deliver its commitments due to the COVID-19 crisis. If the threat of expropriation applies to all telecom players, an ensuing takeover does not bode well for consumers due to the government’s terrible record in operating telecoms.

The shutdown of ABS-CBN demonstrated the gravity of the president’s words when he and his power base decide to follow through. Hopefully that awesome power is not being used to benefit a select few and their businesses but for the Filipino people, so they enjoy better telecom services during this crisis and beyond.*

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October 2020
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