House panel mulling data cap removal on mobile data services

Zandro Ochona, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 21 2021 09:21 PM

MANILA — The House Committee on Information and Communications Technology is considering measures seeking to require telecommunications (telcos) companies to roll over its data services and remove data caps for the customers. 

Both House Bills No. (HB) 7505 and 8085 by Rep. Enrico Pineda and Deputy Speaker Strike Revilla are seeking to institutionalize roll-over data allocation scheme and remove caps and expiration of data services purchased by subscribers.

Prepaid subscribers are currently at the mercy of prepaid data promos by telcos, Democracy.net.PH co-founder Pierre Tito Galla said during the hearing. 

“I, as a prepaid subscriber… know this daily, there is no such thing as prepaid data services, there is only prepaid data promos,” Galla said.

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Once the telco decides to discontinue its service, subscribers will be left to subscribe to another, usually more expensive promo, he said.

Unlike before, subscribers can simply turn on their data call services in their phone settings to use data services. Galla said this method is no longer possible.

The chairman of the committee, Tarlac Rep. Victor Yap, agreed with this observation based on his own experience.

Smart’s Vice President for Legal and Regulatory Group Roy Ibay agreed that promos were meant to be temporary. He denied, however, that these promos would automatically be expensive for the subscribers.

Ibay added that they provide the subscriber the information about the duration and the mechanics of such promos.

Promos serve “to introduce a new product, to generate a new demand and to do market-research on consumer preferences and behavior,” he said. 

Telcos, he pointed out, maintain data caps that are needed to make internet service cheap and prevent excessive use. 

Should the expiration of these data services and the data cap be removed, it would also mean that more users could “clog” their system and strain their networks, he added.

 MIDDLE GROUND 

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), meanwhile, wants a middle ground to balance the interest of subscribers without straining the telcos’ facilities. 

“We do recognize that there are economic considerations, carrying costs, as mentioned by the telcos, one solution that would be possible is providing [a] certain limit or cap on how much data can be rolled over,” said DICT Legislative Liaison Division Chief Omar Sana.

This, he said, would ensure that the rolling over data would not be “overly burdensome” to the telcos should subscribers get an accumulation. 

National Telecommunications Commission Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios said that telcos should explain to its subscribers the mechanics to the data services they are offering so they could choose which of these promos and services are fit for their consumption.

Cabarios also urged telcos to design services that would suit the subscribers’ preferences. 

“Those who cannot afford to pay monthly, they could do prepaid services,” said Cabarios.

Revilla suggested that telcos can rebate unused data allocations via online cash apps.

Ariel Tubayan, head of Globe’s policy division, corporate and legal services group, said that Globe already provides mechanisms to roll-over data load but it has to be made before the load expires.

“We can find a way na masolusyonan ang daing ng ating mga kababayan para ma-full utilize ang kanilang mga unused load palagay ko kapag narating natin ito sa technical working group we can find a way na acceptable sa lahat,” said Tubayan.

(We can find ways to solve the public’s concerns to fully utilize their unused load. I think if we will be able to inform our technical working group about it, we will find ways that are acceptable to everyone.) 

The committee is set to form a technical working group to consolidate the two bills and come up with a mechanism acceptable to both telcos and their subscribers.