Senate bill seeking to impose net neutrality on internet industry

PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

A BILL has been filed in the Senate seeking to impose net neutrality on the internet industry, to create a “level playing field” for all content sources.

Senator Maria Imelda Josefa R. Marcos filed Senate Bill No. 2103, which imposes the net neutrality standard as well as norms for reliability and affordability on internet providers and telecommunications companies.

“This bill… aims to espouse the principle of net neutrality, to ensure that the internet remains a level playing field, where a tiny blog can reach readers just as well as the social media giants,” according to the measure’s explanatory note.

Ms. Marcos also noted that consumers have variable access to connectivity and content, with some having more freedom while others relying on free data encountering more restrictions or exposed to more fake news and false advertising.

“This bill aims to enact measures to protect the internet end-user, by imposing obligations of transparency and reliability on ISPs (internet service providers), telecommunications providers, and the industry players,” according to the explanatory note.

Ms. Marcos noted that the internet in the Philippines remains “slow, unreliable, and expensive, citing Ookla’s Speedtest Global Index in which the Philippines ranked 110th out of 139 countries in terms of mobile data speed. It also “ranks in the lower part of the global index in terms of average broadband.”

The Philippines also landed 82nd out of 85 in the Digital Quality of Life Index 2020 in terms of internet affordability, the senator noted.

Under the bill, Data Transmission Industry Participants are obliged “to treat all internet traffic equally,” providing internet access services without discrimination, restriction or interference.

They should also not impede internet users’ right to access and distribute information and content regardless of their location.

Internet providers will also be required to ensure that any contract that includes internet access services specifies information on traffic management, explanations of volume limitations, speed, and other quality of service parameters, and the impact of services on internet access services.

Minimum, normally available, maximum and advertised download and upload speed in case of fixed networks, and speed in case of mobile networks should be explained, as well as the remedies available in case of discrepancies between actual performance and the performance indicated in the contract.

Traffic management measures should be conducted only when needed to preserve the integrity and security of data transmission industry participants’ network, to prevent impending network congestion or mitigate its effects, and to preserve integrity and security of the terminal equipment of the users, according to the bill. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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