Olongapo Telecom & Information Technology

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Old telco mentality acting up again

The Philippine Star

PLDT is once more acting like the old telco monopoly of the Cojuangco era as it tries to fight the Internet revolution in vain. PLDT announced that it has "temporarily barred" incoming landline calls from its rival Innove’s Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service. PLDT complained to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) against Innove’s VoIP customers sending international calls to PLDT’s network without paying the usual international call rates.

The service being complained about is the GlobeQuest Webphone. Innove, a Globe Telcom subsidiary, has introduced Webphone as a domestic service, but some subscribers have used it abroad. Calls made from abroad appear as domestic when it enters the PLDT system.

Strictly speaking, this service is for a Globeline subscriber calling another Globeline subscriber. But the Internet revolution being what it is, nothing should stop a subscriber from bringing his VoIP router to say, Los Angeles, and thereby get a Manila dial tone from across the Pacific Ocean. He should be able to make calls from Hollywood as if he were in Manila. The only hindrances are our outdated telecoms laws, outdated telco mentality and not technology.

It is obvious that Globe is trying very hard to comply with the local situation by declaring the service as domestic. But that’s almost like ordering the sun to stop rising and setting each day. Once you are on the Internet, the rest of the world becomes domestic. I don’t know if Internet stands for International Network but it just might as well.

It is also easy to understand why PLDT is protesting. Like any old telephone company in the world, it is struggling to get its business model adjusted to the Internet Age. E-mail and Instant Messaging have given people less reason to use normal telco long distance. Also, the rates for long distance service have plummeted significantly over the past few years.

Without Smart, PLDT would be a ghost of itself today. The sale of new services, like Internet access (DSL), can provide new sources of income for an old telco like PLDT. But these new services have not yet replaced the income lost from traditional services like international long distance.

However, the bright boys at PLDT must surely realize it’s a futile rear guard operation. Unless lawyers of PLDT just need some work to keep them busy, PLDT can be more productive by embracing completely what the Internet really is and develop more new services that are more in keeping with its leadership position in the telecoms industry… move on guys… stop lamenting the loss of international long distance (ILD).

For the meantime, I guess there should be a way of resolving the problem at hand without having to deny the Innove Webphone customers interconnection access, wherever they might be calling from. What should be quickly resolved here as a stop gap measure is the matter of access charges.

Strange as it may be in today’s Internet world, our NTC can perhaps prescribe an access fee that users of Globe’s VoIP services should pay if they bring their routers out of the country. Even this option sounds stupid in the context of the Internet, but what can we do in a Third World country that is just trying to catch up with high technology with its antiquated mindsets.

I am disappointed at PLDT’s attitude. I am even more disappointed with Manny Pangilinan, given his public posturing as the forward looking industry leader. I expected him to make the old fogeys at PLDT realize the new rules of the game. I am sure that if the NTC commissioners can have their rathers, they would rather rule in favor of letting the consumers do what they can do with their Internet service, as a public service to the Global Pinoy. PLDT is simply taking advantage of the sad reality that our laws are not as up to date with the times.

If only Congress is not so busy with cha cha, maybe the more innovative legislators like Rep. Joseph Santiago of Catantuduanes and Rep. Sim Kintanar of Cebu, both former NTC Chairmen, should introduce legislation that would make us full members of the global Internet community. Right now, it is nauseating to see old dinosaurs in death throes trying to make one last futile attempt to prolong the bad old days.