Expert: PH needs more than a 3rd major player to improve internet service, address digital divide

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 6) — Ahead of the government's announcement of the 'provisional' new major telecommunications player (NMP) on November 7, advocacy group said, the country should allow more players to enter the telco space.

"If there's only two of them that's challenging each other, there will come a point of equilibrium, where they will no longer need to compete as hard because there is only one other competitor. But if you add a third in the mix, and in the future probably a fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh, there will be much healthier competitive environment," co-founder Pierre Tito Galla told in an interview with CNN Philippines.

Galla said, the new major player will face a number of challenges, including putting up the infrastructure that should be able to withstand extreme weather. There's also the challenge of attracting subscribers. But, Galla said he is optimistic the new player would deliver beyond expectations if it will measure up to its promises in its bid.

He also believes the new player could roll out infrastructure as early as mid-2019, as the government has put up "helpful" measures in place, including the passing of the Ease of Doing Business Law, and also because of the strong public demand for better internet service.

"Because of how hungry, I suppose, our countrymen are in terms of better services, more reasonable pricing, more reliable services, even LGUs (local government units) themselves will not stop the implementation of infrastructure, especially now that it is an election season. If you're going to get in the way of infrastructure rollout that will benefit us, then quite likely you will be voted out of office," he explained.

Galla also said that making internet affordable and accessible would address the "digital divide." He explained that Filipinos should also see to it that internet service will be available even to the poorest and farthest households.

According to the latest report of the Asia Foundation and Better Broadband Alliance, around 45 percent of the more than 103 million Filipinos, 61 percent of the 23 million households, and 74 percent of the more than 46,700 public schools nationwide have no internet access as of 2016.

"If you can reduce the digital divide to zero where the poor have equal opportunity to access as the rich, where farmers have equal opportunity to access as those in the urban areas, then the telecommunications industry would have succeeded," he said.

Galla also urged lawmakers to prioritize measures that will reform the telco industry, including the Mobile Number Portability Bill and the Spectrum Management Bill.