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September 19, 2014

The Spider on the Web in the Philippines

The Spider on the Web in the Philippines
This article is supposed to be posted last week but due to being capped to 2g for a few days, it’s only now that I had time to post this.
A month ago, someone posted an article about how PLDT acts the way like an arachnid. We may not be using PLDT currently but this also affects other Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The way the infrastructure is set up here makes them all pass through PLDT. In a nutshell, PLDT controls where data is routed and in essence, can control how much speed or bandwidth they get.

Other ISPs cope with this in myriad ways. They tier up speed with increasingly high cost. Others have taken it to another level by implementing data caps even on cable users.

This affects us personally as well. I work from home, as a web designer and by nature I need to use the internet to upload and download a lot. Obviously, I can’t work properly and am hesitant to take in very large projects that our internet limitations just can’t handle. Fortunately, my husband has a mobile internet device his office provided when he needs to download email at home. It has signal issues in our area but he just carries on. Otherwise, his usage would totally consume our data caps.

Recreationally, we can’t play 90% of our Steam libraries because of throttling for as low as 1GB. Even the 15GB for home users is pitifully small for a full-sized household. We can’t watch videos on YouTube because after a while it refuses to load. Modern sites timeout. We’re pretty careful of what we click because of our caps. Sometimes we need to go elsewhere to download programs we buy.

PLDT first mentioned that the majority consumption of off shore sites justified the way they route data, via Hong Kong. So, why won’t they free up local data routes and sharing to ease local consumption as well? Recently, they blamed abusive users for the crawling internet speed. It was downloading movies and other things they blamed. They used to advertise guaranteed speeds. They never tacked in usage in the equation when they advertise.

These days ISPs advertise “up to” (small letters) high-speed here in big letters, and then tack in even smaller letters or a very fast talking voice (less than 1/10 of the speed with ~80% service reliability). They do the “fine print”/”fast talking” in advertising to get legally away with the crawling speeds, and more fine print in the contract to get away with the data capping or Fair Use Policy as they call it. The Fair Use Policy (FUP) has more derogatory meanings from consumers.

To be fair with consumers, legislation should be made for them to advertise their average speed with their top speed as “fine print” in the ads. Transparency, also is needed in the data cap policy and sales personnel should be made to explain this before signing up a new user. Unlimited usage should be for the advertised speeds and not some lower tier network.

The ISPs rebut that you can still surf unlimited just using a weaker 2G network. I’m unsure if they do realize or perhaps just don’t care that those networks are obsolete. They can’t handle modern websites or streaming. The internet is a medium in which innovation thrives. Having obsolete service means we can’t catch up or take advantage of this potential. Having these limitations stifles innovation here. We champion business process outsourcing and other data intensive jobs in this country so we need the infrastructure and policies to back it up.

The ISPs also mention that this policy is a worldwide practice. Looking at the other side, we see this being fought all over the globe as well. My husband was watching cable at an airport and saw a US ad for mobile internet without the data caps, with more than twice the speed here, and is less expensive ($10 vs approximately $35 we pay here). We think they should start such services here.

ISPs complain about abusive users doing illegal activities and downloading movies and such. They say that it is abnormal and abusive to use the internet that way. Well, illegal activities are illegal in any sense, and are indeed abusive in any medium (pending legislation for some items). However, We’re not sure that they see (or again, care) that even the way we use the internet is evolving. We download games and programs legally. These are purchased from Steam, and other like sites and sometimes in bulk because of huge discounts or sales. We also buy software over the net and it’s distributed via downloading. Apps today are constantly updating, for improvements or security purposes and those put a strain on bandwidth. We watch instructional videos like how to sharpen a knife or how to make Onigiri over YouTube. We watch cute cat videos (this has a human cost as well, it makes people feel good)! Even without downloading movies, these involve large, if not massive amounts of data.

Couple that with the fact that each family member will have their own mobile device and likely, their own laptop. Sometimes a member will have more than one. That increases usage geometrically, if not exponentially.

Their service also needs mentioning. It’s described as horrendous – queueing in the phone line for almost an hour, being transferred over and over, missed appointments for repairs or installation that lasts months, long service interruptions without updates or warning, the list goes on. However, you can count on your monthly bill being charged to you, even if it’s not sent regularly via email or mail. They point to their fine print for that. Not like you have much choice, they all have that fine print and given life as it is nowadays, it’s difficult to live disconnected.

One of the major roots in this problem is how PLDT has a stranglehold over the infrastructure and even holds PACNET, the Pacific Internet service that connects us to the world, hostage with their policies and practices. There is already legislation against this but it needs to be strengthened and enforced.

We’re not sure what they are protecting either. It may be a money making machine, antiquated equipment that are obsolete and require significant investment to replace, a monopoly, all of the above, or worse.

When confronted they point fingers. It seems to be The trend in this country. Well, it’s time to bind those fingers with legislation and enforcement.


Notes/Further Media:

Why Data Caps Suck – Not just generally for consumption purposes but further ramifications as well. US-Centric but extremely relevant.

[kad_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyuIiG4c4Go” ]

 

PS: Senaor Bam Aquino held another public hearing regarding internet issues, particularly slow internet connectivity in the Philippines. (September 16, 2014) Be informed and get involved.

[kad_youtube url=”http://youtu.be/R4VfSWE7ObU” ]

I’d like to apologize first because I have not watched the video since I am limiting my internet ‘surfing’ for my work.
PPS: Another thing worth mentioning is net neutrality and censorship. It’s already being proposed and fought in other parts of the world and even here. This requires our eternal vigilance.