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Telco industry experts say next gov’t leaders must address constraints

The next administration will need to focus on addressing regulatory constraints to welcome more investors and increase competition in the telecommunications industry, experts said.

Both the private and public sectors must ensure that the country can meet the evolving needs of internet users, industry experts said at the BusinessWorld Virtual Economic Forum 2021 on Thursday.

“The binding constraint on telecommunications infrastructure development in the Philippines is still around competition issues,” said John Garrity, chief of party at USAID Better Access and Connectivity, noting that the entry of the third telco player has been a major development.

According to the global ranking by Ookla, the network testing and analysis company behind Speedtest, the Philippines’ fixed broadband internet speeds fell five places to 71st in October from September.

The country’s mobile internet speeds improved five spots from September to 94th in the October global ranking.

“It’s probably more of a situation where people have a means to invest. But do they feel that it is a good market to invest in? We cannot make that decision for them,” Converge Chief Operations Officer Jesus C. Romero said.

Business groups and foreign chambers recently urged Philippine lawmakers to approve the remaining economic reform measures, including the amendments to the Public Service Act, which aims to reclassify “public utilities” such as telecommunications and transportation to “public services” and allow more foreign ownership in these industries.

The groups said that allowing foreign competition would help improve the quality and pricing of internet connectivity.

“The more investments there are, it would be good for the business, create more employment for the people, and more revenues for the government,” Mr. Romero said.

For his part, Mr. Garrity said: “Government intervention is most appropriate when there is less of an ability for the private sector to invest on its own.”

He also pointed out that the next administration should look into ways to improve data gathering statistics.

Mr. Romero stressed that connectivity is a necessary utility. “It’s no longer a privilege that can only be availed by a few.” — Arjay L. Balinbin

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