HOR COMPLEX, Quezon City (DWDD) – The House Committee on Information and Communications Technology chaired by Rep. Victor A. Yap (Second District of Tarlac) recently ordered the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to fast-track its plan to lower interconnection charges for voice calls so that the public can make unlimited calls to all networks.
During the first organizational meeting held by the ICT Committee, several members aired their complaints against telecommunications services in the country, including slow internet, dropped calls, and costly voice call charges to other networks.
Responding to the query of ICT Vice-chair Rep. Francis Gerald Abaya (Cavite, 1st District) on how to make the cost of voice call services more competitive, NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios admitted that the present interconnection rates between telcos at P4.00 per minute drives the cost higher. He said there are plans to lower the interconnection charges this year or next year.
The NTC explained that the existing telcos charge each other a fixed rate of P4.00 per minute for every call they facilitate and process from consumers of different networks. The amount, which 119 million subscribers pay, is one of the highest in the Asia-Pacific region. Callers pay this amount whenever they make a call, including the dropped calls that occur in the process.
ICT Chair Yap directed the NTC to look into the immediate lowering of the interconnection charges. Telcos present at the meeting (i.e. Smart and Globe) said that they would lower the interconnection charges once directed by the NTC. They said they would abide by whatever rates the NTC implements.
Section 5(c) of Republic Act 7925 directs the NTC to “mandate a fair and reasonable interconnection of facilities of authorized public network operators and other providers of telecommunications services through appropriate modalities of interconnection and at a reasonable and fair level of charges.”
In 2011, NTC issued a memorandum circular lowering the interconnection rate for SMS from P0.35 to P0.15. As a result, the country’s rate for SMS is one of the lowest, according to NTC Chairman Gamaliel Cordoba.
According to Cordoba, the lowering of interconnection charges for voice from P4.00/minute to P2.00 – 2.50 per minute can result to unlimited calls to other networks as what happened when NTC lowered interconnection charges for SMS — it resulted in unlimited SMS.
ICT Chairman Yap then exhorted the NTC by saying, “Why wait till next year? I suggest that this scheme be implemented as soon as possible.”
“In 2011, you already decreased the interconnection rates for text messages. I do not see any reason why you cannot do the same with voice calls now,” the new ICT Chair continued.
“Our restive consumers will definitely be happy to receive this as your early Christmas present,” Yap concluded.
In the next ICT hearing, the Committee will take up other measures to improve speed and lower the cost of internet in the country and resume deliberation on bills increasing the penalties imposed against telcos.
President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier warned telcos to shape up, otherwise he would open the Philippine telco market to foreign players if the local companies fail to deliver. CONGRESS / MCAG