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Thursday, February 03, 2005

Comments on National Telecommunications Commission's VOIP Discussion Paper

CPU Position on VoIP

1.What, under Philippine law, is the proper regulatory classification for VoIP services (telecommunications or value-added)?

In classifying whether VoIP is a telecommunications or value-added service the basis should be on what would be more beneficial to the people. A classification which would result to a monopoly of a single member of the telecommunications industry would be to the disadvantage of the people. The appropriate classification is the one that would allow the general public to deploy, provide and use VoIP.

2.Who should be allowed to use, provide and/or benefit from VoIP in the Philippines? What are the tangible benefits of, or problems that may arise from expanding access to and use of VoIP in the Philippines?

The general public should be allowed to provide, use, and benefit from VoIP. Moreover, the rapid development in VoIP technology makes it possible for ordinary people to deploy such technology. Limiting the use and deployment of such technolgy to value-added and telecomunications company would deprive the people of an affordable way of communication. OFWs and local telephone users are to benefit from VoIP.

3.At this time, should the NTC issue rules and or/ guidelines for VoIP? Why or why not? What are the substative and technical considerations should such rules and/or guidelines cover?

The NTC should issue rules and/or guidelines for VoIP to ensure that the people benefit from this new technology. Such rules should “protect consumers against misuse of telecommunications entity's monopoly or quasi-monopolistic powers” and allow the public to provide and deploy such services. Its rules should be true to its mandate to “promote consumers welfare by facilitating access to telecommunications services whose infrastructure and network must be geared towards the needs of individual...”

4.Do you agree with the following statements?
4.1. Because technology is driven by investment, and regulation scares investment: regulation, therefore impedes technology. Put another way, investors will not invest on VoIP or company (other than telco) seeking to offer VoIP, if there is even a slightest threat that such investments would be regulated in the future.

Government regulations are not for the protection of investors' profits. Its purpose, in this particular case, is to protect the people from being deprived of technology which iss of great benefit to them. Regulations should ensure that the most affordable and good quality of services are available to the public.

4.2. The NTC should allow Internet-based services to develop in an environment of minimal regulation.

Internet-based services and technologies are rapidly developing technologies. What is high-tech today would be obsolete in a few years. Indeed, regulating every technologies – that comes out would be difficult. Oftentimes these new technology would be using different protocol which would again need new regulation. While allowing Internet-based services to flourish and develop its regulation should ensure fair competition among providers. However, NTCs primary role is to be an agent in advancing information and communications technology that will greatly benefit the people. Thus, it should not be thinking whether companies would profit on this technology or not.

C.Other Issues

1.In the case of VoIP, is there such a thing as a “dominant player?” Or should all players, particularly fixed line providers, mobile operators and cable service providers, be regarded as competing not only among themselves, but with the other players as well?

Obviously, whoever owns the telecommunications infrastructure would be in great advantage and would likely be the “dominant player.”

2.Do you agree with the following statements? Please comment

2.1. Networks remain capital intensive, with long payback periods. Operators – either incumbents or new entrants such as mobile cable operators – must achieve an acceptable return on capital, or they will not invest.

Business either lose or gain profits. The government should not be the guarantor of profits for companies. This would be a great disservice to the people. Rather than primarily considering technology deployment because it is for the benefit of the people, it concerns itself how telecommunications companies profit from new technologies.

2.2. Telecommunications companies are obliged under RA 7925 to provide local exchange or fixed line services to unserve and underserved areas in urban and rural areas, an obligation that ISPs and other potential VoIP providers are not subjected to. Allowing the latter to provide VoIP will therefore subject public telecommunications entities to unfair competition.

Most rural areas are still unserved. No fixed line exists because it would not be profitable for them. The popularity of mobile communications has also buried the hope of the people, who are farmers in majority, for more affordable communication service through fixed line telephones. Telecommunications companies have pay lip service to RA 7925 in terms of public service. They have been more concern with huge profits. NTC should focus more on ensuring public service of these Telecommunications companies. All interested parties in providing and using VoIP should be treated equally. Moreover, unfair competition do exist but with the telecommunications having great advantage over other providers because it owns the network infrastructure.

Finally, any legislation and regulation on VoIP should primarily consider the interest of the Filipino people for cheaper and accessible communications technology. The Filipino people should be the primary beneficiary of any advances in Information and Communications technology and not businesses driven not by the desire for public service but profits. ###

Ricardo Bahague Jr.
Member, Preparatory Committee

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