Key Issues
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"Key Internet Policy Issues" is a series of contributions from people living in countries new or relatively new to the Internet about what they consider to be key policy issues related to the deployment and use of the Internet in their country. Each text is published under the complete responsibility and with the permission of its author. These contributions were solicited by Alan McCluskey, guest editor, in preparation for a special issue of the Internet Society's magazine "OnTheInternet" entitled "Strategies for development: from thought to action" to be published in November 1997. For more information and comments on the preparation of this special edition see "Addressing Key Policy Issues".

The Philipines
The case of the metering proposal

The Philippine Internet industry started out as a government initiative like most of its ASEAN counterparts. But unlike them, the industry has become more commercialised with rapid growth both in technical knowledge and in the number of users and service providers. In this regard, the issues raised have become parallel to the economic growth of the industry.

Central to current discussions has been the need to improve the infrastructure, the question of interconnectivity, and the IP and domain allocation policies. Except for the first, the discussions were more techno-political than socio-political. While other countries might raise the issue of monopoly, the closest the Philippines come to a monopoly would be the telco-owned ISPs. It is possible that the fact of being both a telco and an ISP gives them an unfair advantage over independent ISPs. Which leads us to the proposal of the telcos to charge phone use on a pulse basis, the so-called "phone metering proposal", aimed at financing infrastructure improvements. Who would benefit the most if the proposal is approved? Case in point, where would the consumer go if a telco meters a phone line unless connected to the telco-owned ISP?

The core argument of the telcos in favour of such a proposal, in relation to Internet use, is that dial-up access congests the telephone network. But the studies presented by the local telcos in support of their claims came from US-based telcos which are not immediately applicable to the local industry. According to the Internet Access Coalition (IAC), these US studies are flawed. The American FCC has even denied requests to charge higher access rates for ISPs. So how could one approve a proposal without any clear local study on phone congestion?

But why such an issue? Everyone is pushing for global competitiveness, the Philippines included. And what better way to attain this but to be globally connected through the Internet? But with phone metering, access to the Internet would be limited to those who can afford it making it economically unfeasible for most of the population.

The phone metering issue is an on-going debate between the telcos and the consumers most notably the Philippine Internet Service Providers Organisation (PISO). As to how it will end, nobody really is sure. But if anyone is interested, articles and studies can be found in the web pages of one of the telcos, PISO, the IAC, and the FCC.

Neil D. Quiogue, IPhil Communications Network, The Philippines

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ISSN: 1664-834X Copyright © , Alan McCluskey, info@connected.org
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Created: September 5th, 1997 - Last up-dated: September 5th, 1997