Poe despises RJ’s duopoly

Grace Poe

Senator finds plan to control cell tower business really stupid.

SENATOR Grace Poe yesterday branded as stupid the plan of Presidential Adviser on Information and Communications Technology Ramon Jacinto to limit to two the number of independent and private companies that could be allowed to build cell site towers in the country.

“Dito sa cell towers, mayroon kasing isang nag-suggest sa Presidente yata o sa DICT na dapat ay isang kompanya o dalawang kompanya lang ang puwedeng magpatayo ng cell towers. Kalokohan ‘yon,” Poe stressed during the hearing of the Senate Committee on Public Service.

“Dapat kung sinong puwedeng magtayo ng cell towers, basta nasa regulasyon, ay magtayo para naman walang monopolya nito. Kung maraming cell towers, mas gaganda ang signal natin,” she insisted.

It was learned that Jacinto allegedly was the one who suggested to President Rodrigo Duterte to craft a policy that will mandate two independent tower companies registered with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to build and share their towers for use of the existing telco firms as well as a prospective new major player in the industry within the first four years of its implementation.

This was met by jeers by officials of existing telcos who insisted on building their own towers and urged the government to cut bureaucracy to break the limitations in their tower improvements.

In a separate but similar position against towercos duopoly, Globe Telecom and Smart insisted the proposal of Jacinto will violate their congressional franchise.

During the hearing, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) expressed confidence that the third telecommunications player will be operational this coming 2019, if the bureaucratic glitches can be resolved immediately.

“If anything goes as planned, magkakaroon tayo ng bidding sa November 7, bigyan natin ng six months or so ‘yung third telco para makapag-roll out ng kanilang imprastraktura. By middle part of next year, makakuha na sila ng subscribers,” DICT Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr. told Poe, chairman of the committee, when asked when the third telco would be operational.

But Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero, expressed concern on the issue of using a common tower managed by the government that he said might create a monopoly or oligopoly in the internet service.

But while the DICT said that the new telco player will have a “provisional status” this November, a strict selection process must first be established to assure transparency.

It will turn out that the third telco will be selected via algorithm of a special computer program by the DICT.

Poe said that the DICT officials assured her of an objective selection process that will rely on computer algorithm to weigh the qualifications of the candidate companies and determine which is most qualified.

“Well, sabi nila, ‘yung kanilang pagpili nito ay magiging objective. Sabi nga nila computer daw ang pipili based do’n sa mga qualifications—magkano ang kanilang magiging puhunan, etc., tingnan natin. Maliwanag din na kung sino ang makakakuha ay dapat may kapabilidad, mayroon silang 10 years national experience ng pagpapatakbo ng isang telecom company,” Poe said.

Though it is the first time that a selection process will be dependent on a computer program, Poe expressed confidence in the process saying that no one can bribe a computer but as long as there will be observers from the government and other stakeholders.

She added that checks and balances have been installed in the process and went through the guidance of the oversight committee on who will be allowed to submit their bids.

“Basta ang sinabi din ni Senator Escudero, kailangan lang siguro, ‘pag nagkaroon ng issue, halimbawa nagkaroon ng tie, paano ninyo ireresolba ‘yan? At sinabi naman nila na mayroon naman silang guidelines para sa mga bagay na gano’n,” Poe explained.

Poe also insisted that before the third telco becomes operational, it still must undergo the scrutiny of Congress which will issue their franchise.