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Philippines telecom giants capping user data

Written by Saurav Sarkar

Did your smartphone apps just slow down? It might be your telecom company attempting to restrict how much data you’re using.

Fights over bandwidth heated up in the Philippines earlier this year, as telecom giant Globe attempted to enforce their right to limit Internet speeds for some users, said GMA News. The report indicated “Globe” cited its Fair Use Policy and said it would limit heavy users to 2G speeds when they went over their 1 gigabyte limit per day, resulting in slower access to social media and apps require Internet connections, among other functions. The advocacy website Democracy.Net.PH reports 5% to 7% of end users use 80% of available bandwith, according to the Philippine Chamber of Telecommunications Operators.

According to a text message copied to tech website Yugatech, Globe told a user, “We’re happy that you’re among our regular users of mobile internet. To keep enjoying this service, it is important to remind you of our Fair Use Policy. This allows us to give all our mobile data subscribers equal opportunity to enjoy our services. Customers on a data promo or plan who exceed 1 GB per day will experience 2G browsing speeds, but only up to midnight.” The message then directed the user to Globe’s Fair Use Policy.

Democracy.Net.PH reports “Globe” is not alone in attempting to conserve bandwidth. “Most, if not all, of the telcos and ISPs in the country have data capping policies embedded in their Fair Usage policies, said the website” Among the companies the website points to are Globe, PLDT, Sky, Smart, and Wi-tribe. GMA News also cited Smart as a data capper in the ASEAN country.

The underlying factor in the data capping attempts may be the lack of high speed Internet in the Philippines. According to Democracy.Net.PH, the Philippines has the third slowest broadband in Southeast Asia and is below the global average connection speed of 3.6 Megabits per second. However, the website makes the argument data caps can be about other agendas, beside fairness in conserving limited access to high speed Internet. “Data capping per se is not a bad thing. Unfortunately, data capping, as it is implemented here, is unreasonable and indiscriminate: Oftentimes, it punishes both the innocent and the abusive users,” reports the website supporting internet freedom in the Philippines.

According to the website, the motivation for telecommunication companies to cap data might be pleasing their investors or monopolistic practices, rather than doling out precious gigabytes in a fair manner. However, most of the examples and economics cited by the website in its piece on data capping are rooted in the very different landscape of the U.S. broadband market rather than the Philippines. The website does also cite the pertinent argument data capping reduces economic activity and thereby impedes economic development.

In the end, the conclusion of Democracy.Net.PH might be the most reasonable one: “The strident public opposition to data capping begs the question: Is data capping bad? The answer is not a simple yes or no.”

–Edited by Mohamed P.Hassan

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