Olongapo Telecom & Information Technology

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Consumer group, solons, telcos oppose SIM registration

A CONSUMER group of local mobile phone subscribers, several congressmen, and a local telephone company are opposing a proposed measure that will require the registration of millions of prepaid subscriber identification module (SIM) cards in the country.

Insisting that the proposed law will turn into an administrative nightmare for government, the consumer group TXTPower said this pending law is also likely to violate the Filipino consumer’s right to privacy since it will require the creation of a database or electronic listing of all SIM cards sold in the country.

"This will lead to wholesale and widespread violations of the right to privacy of communications…because there is a huge potential for abuse of such [a] database, especially in the atmosphere of non-stop killing and harassment of government critics, activists, lawyers, and journalists," said Antony Ian Cruz, founder and convenor of TXT Power, in a congressional hearing on the proposed law.

SIM card registration is among several provisions for the protection of the rights of Filipino mobile phone subscribers in a consolidated bill filed in Congress, titled "Cellular Phone Subscribers Protection Act of 2005." It integrates various measures filed by lawmakers in the House of Representatives.

For his part, Rodolfo Salalima, Globe Telecom senior vice president for corporate and legal affairs, pointed out that the pending measure wrongly assumes that SIM registration would prevent the use pre-paid phone numbers as a means to perpetrate criminal activities like text-based scams and cell phone theft.

"If the reason for this [law] is to reduce criminality, then why punish the majority for a misdemeanor of a few," the Globe lawyer wanted to know.

Salalima also stressed that prepaid SIM registration would eventually translate to higher cost for consumers since this administrative procedure would eat into the resources of telephone companies and their suppliers.

Rep. Roilo Golez of the 2nd district of Parañaque added that government has been faced with registration problems historically.

"We're all politicians here and we know how difficult it is for government to impose a registration process. Just look at what had happened during the Philippine elections. We should realize that we have more mobile phone subscribers than voters. I don't think the National Telecommunications Commission (the body that will be put in charge of the registration process) can handle this administrative exercise," Golez said.

The congressman also noted that the proposed law indicates an intention to "protect consumers," not burden them with registration.

But Victorio Mario Dimagiba, director of the Bureau of Trade Regulation and Consumer Protection of the Department of Trade and Industry, supported the proposed measure, arguing that local law enforcement has often faced difficulties in solving criminal cases involving the use of pre-paid SIM cards due to lack of information.

"I think most of the provisions of this consolidated bill were based on the premise of a National Telecommunications Commission memo that was opposed by operators in the past," the DTI official added.

Officials of the NTC were not present during the Congressional hearing.

Meanwhile in Southeast Asia, Thailand is known to have imposed the registration of pre-paid SIM cards, according to a Thailand Expat Forum.

This forum indicates that with 30,000 SIM card outlets across the country with total sales of 50,000 cards a day, registration has not been as smooth sailing as the Thai government.

Government had intended to regulate the sale and purchase of millions of prepaid SIM cards to prevent terrorist activities. Charged with implementing the SIM card registration scheme, the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) signed a cooperation agreement with seven cell phone service providers to force subscribers to register their prepaid SIM cards.

SIM card user registration begins in Bankok

BANGKOK: -- Mobile phone shops at IT Mall in Bangkok, one of the capital's biggest outlets, have reported a smooth start to a new government scheme to identify and register all purchasers of prepaid SIM cards.

Shop owners said customers were cooperating by presenting their identity cards as required when buying new SIM cards.

The new scheme, which began officially today, aims to create a client data base.

The government has said the measure will help curb insurgent violence in the country's three southern border provinces of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani, where bombers have used such communication devices to detonate explosives.

IT Mall shop owners said they had already been collecting client data for several days, ahead of the official start of the scheme, even though the government had not yet provided the official forms.

Thailand has 30,000 SIM card outlets across the country with a total sales of 50,000 cards a day.

Shop owners believed the move would not affect sales.

The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), which is responsible for the new registration scheme, yesterday signed a cooperation agreement with seven cell phone service providers to register their prepaid SIM card users.

''The measure is part of the government's attempt to quell the unrest in the deep South and I believe it will not affect the service,'' ICT Minister Suwit Khunkitti said.

He said the data base being created would be treated as confidential information.

The ministry, he said, would begin regulating 21.5 million SIM cards purchased earlier by the end of this month.

''Users must report to police or to their service provider if they have lost their phone or transferred their SIM cards to other users to prevent any misuse,'' he said, adding that official forms would be distributed to SIM card shops within days.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Checking on home while away

By Jim Bernardo INQ7.net

HONOLULU-- I found some free time to write while spending some quality time with my favorite support team: my family. The year 2005 became our US travel year, when an opportunity to travel presented itself and I received some complimentary airline tickets for my kids.

Knowing we would be away for some time, I installed an IP camera device with four cameras to monitor the perimeter of our home. It is standalone--no PC is required and it is web-configurable and -accessible. The IP video server device supports dynamic DNS service, which is extremely useful for residential dial-up or DSL Internet links that do not have a fixed, external IP address, especially when you need to reach PCs or services while away from home.

Dynamic DNS provides free Domain Name Service by installing a Dynamic DNS updater client that reports the ISP assigned internet IP address to say: http://videoservice.freedomain.org. Check out www.dynDNS.org and see if it fits your DNS needs. Go ahead put that unlimited Internet link to good use.

By accessing the sample IP via the web, we can see the perimeter of our home and show my eight-year old her dog, which usually makes trouble.

Put your DSL to good use while you are away from home, or office. View your warehouse or 24/7 releasing area remotely. Or access your newborn’s nursery so working parents are able to watch over the area. If you are interested for such an IP video service, just shoot me an e-mail.

Accessing the password-protected video service from a notebook or personal digital assistant (PDA) is much easier since wi-fi hotspots in Honolulu (or for the rest of the US) are prevalent.

My last work-related US travel was the week of September 11. A planned stop to some relatives requires us to fly from Honolulu to Los Angeles , but that was cancelled due to the unavailability of return flights to Manila. We would have been stuck for days since they grounded all planes for some time.

September 11 was a very difficult time for the US grieving for the thousands of lives lost. It has changed their way of life.

Since 9-11 we limited our travel to Asia Pacific and the Philippines during summers, The year 2005 was an exception and everyone in the family was looking forward to this trip. The year 2004 was a no-vacation year for us as we lost my dad to a battle with cancer.

For an IT practitioner/technologist, the US is such a cool place to travel. It has wi-fi hotspots all over the place: the hotels, the malls, the factory outlets, the cafés, and even the tourist attractions have them. I e-mail/chat with my project team members in Manila at 5 p.m. local time using a wi-fi-enabled PDA that doubles as a phone.

Internet technologies allow you to leave home/office behind, but if and when you have the need to help out while on vacation, go ahead and put to use the few hours before retiring the day. Or use the waiting time for your next flight leg, to catch up on things via email, or chat or check on video, if and when you need it.

Now, vacation is normally time away from work, and it boils down to an individual’s choice to be carefree. But there are people who need to check that work being executed as planned, for their own peace of mind. It is an option to get in touch, redirect/intervention, and let your team hit the deliverables. E-mails and chat more than suffices to communicate such guidance.

Real Roaming

Armed with a wi-fi enabled PDA-phone(HP 6300), I read mails the past two days I missed out on since I flew out, thanks to the Hyatt Waikiki free wi-fi hotspot. Do you need to call a friend? Install Skype(www.skype.com) on your Pocket PC and leverage on Voice over IP instead of running for a 10-dollar phone card.

While waiting for my night flight to LAX at the Honolulu Airport, I managed to post some vacation pictures from our Waikiki vacation for three dollars. So for two hours, I got a T1 connection from www.shaka.net, Registration is a breeze and I was online in a minute flat. I normally would not login, but with a few hours for a night flight what are we to do?

Telecommuting is as real as it can get these days, and with Voice over IP as a very low-cost alternative, you are left to battle being in a different time zone. A very interesting article I saw in LA Times that addresses this negative effect of business process outsourcing (BPO).

Laws vs computer games a disservice--Internet café chain

By Alexander F. Villafania INQ7.net

PASSING laws that ban computer games or Internet cafés near schools could be “a major disservice” to Filipinos, the president of an Internet café chain has said.

In an e-mail to INQ7.net, Raymond Ricafort, president of Netopia, said that the lawmakers have to conduct more comprehensive research and consult experts on the Internet and computer games before they craft laws banning them.

Ricafort was commenting on the recent filing of House Bill 1858, which bans Internet cafés and online computer games near schools.

In filing HB 1858, Representative Faysah Dumarpa said the presence of Internet cafés that offer online computer games near schools is leading to a decline in the quality of learning among Filipino students.
She was referring to the popular online role-playing game, Ragnarok, distributed by Level-Up Games.

Many Internet cafés in the Philippines draw the bulk of their income from students using their facilities to play online games.

“From what I see so far, the research on the subject is inadequate at best and to let these congressmen craft laws and leave the future of this country’s ICT [information and communications technology] or even retail policy [in] their hands without further understanding, will be a major disservice to our people,” Ricafort said.

Furthermore, he said that legislators fail to recognize that the 8,000 to 10,000 Internet cafés nationwide could be used as an alternative or to augment public school computer education.

“I do not agree with excessive gaming but gaming on its own has a lot of merits. Like anything in this world, it can be misused and abused,” Ricafort said.