Globe is calling on stakeholders to codify or integrate into one comprehensive law, all existing telco laws to avoid conflicting provisions that may result from the passage of the Open Access in Data Transmission Bill.
In a recent virtual meeting with members of the ICT Committee of the Management Association of the Philippines, the company presented its initial position on the proposed bills pending before Congress.
“Organizing outdated laws on telecommunications in one comprehensive law will prevent conflicting provisions,” said Atty. Ariel Tubayan, Globe Senior Legal Counsel.
Tubayan explained the Open Access Bill offers no clarity in terms of foreign ownership restrictions. Tubayan pointed out that any law lifting foreign ownership restrictions will require an amendment of the economic provisions of the Constitution.
The proposed legislation also does not expressly repeal Section 16 of Republic Act 7925, which requires a congressional franchise to operate as a public telecommunications entity. Data transmission falls squarely within the definition of telecommunications under Republic Act 7925.
It also does not seek the revocation of Section 1 of Republic Act 3846, which requires a franchise for the operation of a radio station or to use radio frequencies. Moreover, vertically integrated telcos like Globe use the same network for carrying voice and data traffic. If the Open Access Bill is passed, this will result in the unduly onerous situation where telcos will be constrained to comply with two separate and conflicting laws – one for voice and another for data.
Voice will require a franchise while data will be exempt from such requirement. In reality, voice is now primarily carried over data. Such dual legal governance will negate the technology neutrality principle under RA 7925 because data traffic will be favored over circuit switched traffic.
“The Open Access bill contains many aspirational objectives that greatly depend on a strong and independent National Telecommunications Commission (NTC). Moreover, it discriminates on what may be the subject of co-use and collocation because it excludes spectrum use from resources that may freely be shared,” Tubayan said.
There are three current versions of the proposed bill – one pending before the House of Representatives, which has passed second reading, but reconsidered for some amendments. At the Senate, there were two versions, separately filed by Senator Ralph Recto and Senator Bong Revilla.
All versions aim to carve out data transmission from the coverage of telecommunications, which, under existing laws, are considered public utilities that are subject to foreign ownership restrictions and require a congressional franchise.
“There is a need to strengthen the regulatory powers of the NTC by making it an independent body with fixed terms of office, similar to the Energy Regulatory Commission. It is also a must to strengthen its power to recall frequencies from those who sit on them, those who do not use the radio frequency allocated to them,” Tubayan added.
Globe strongly supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) particularly UN SDG No. 9 that highlights the roles of infrastructure and innovation as crucial drivers of economic growth and development.