Foreign chambers, industry groups urge Senate to fast-track open access bill

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INDUSTRY GROUPS called on senators to start deliberations and swiftly approve a bill that would improve data transmission services in the country by promoting open and fair competition in the industry.

“One major lesson of the ongoing pandemic is that developing competitive digital infrastructure is essential for better lives for everyone in the Philippines and certainly critical for investment, particularly foreign investment,” the groups said in a joint statement.

They also cited the crucial role of digital services in “education, employment, finance, governance, health, and a multitude of other essential activities of a strong economy.”

The proposed Open Access in Data Transmission bill has been approved by the House of Representatives on third reading and is pending at the committee level in the Senate.

The groups sent a letter to Senate President Vicente “Tito” C. Sotto III to expedite the consideration of the bill, highlighting its importance to economic recovery and increased investment in broadband, especially in underserved areas.

“Once passed into law, the Open Access bill will provide a competitive policy and regulatory framework that lowers the barriers and cost to enter the data transmission market,” they said.

The measure will mandate transparency in pricing to ensure fair trading between each data transmission segment and require interconnection among industry participants to avoid dominance of any single player or group.

It will also require all last mile providers to provide a minimum download speed of at least 2 megabits per second within one year from the effectivity of the proposed law.

Performance standards for broadband internet should also be prescribed following public consultations and hearings within six months from enactment of the measure, and will be reviewed at least once a year.

Those who fail to meet performance standards will face a fine between P100,000 to P5 million for every day of violation until the data firm fully complies.

It will also prohibit the acts of refusing access to data infrastructure by an industry player to another, deliberate slowdown of internet services, and denying information on network facilities to other players, among others.

BusinessWorld reached out to Mr. Sotto and Senate Science and Technology Committee chair Maria Lourdes Nancy S. Binay for their comment, but have yet to respond.

The statement was supported by Philippine-based foreign business chambers, including the American, Australian-New Zealand, Canadian, European, Japanese, and Korean.

It was also backed by the Management Association of the Philippines, Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters, Inc., Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Foundation, Inc., and the US-ASEAN Business Council. — Russell Louis C. Ku