Poe tells telco franchise applicant: Don't take panel hearings lightly

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 08 2020 09:52 AM | Updated as of Dec 08 2020 12:46 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) - Sen. Grace Poe on Tuesday told representatives of a telecommunications company applying for a franchise to shape up and show up in committee hearings after an "underwhelming" presentation, with an official even being absent.

Instant Data Inc.'s president was not able to join the Senate public services committee hearing on Monday due to unstable internet connection, but Poe noted that it would have been apparent if anyone's connection was spotty, and the company official was simply a "no-show from start to finish."

"Kung yung mga teachers nga nakaka-akyat sa puno para magkaroon ng signal—hindi ko naman sinasabi na tama yung sitwasyon natin na yung connection natin ay masama. Mali. Kaya nga inaasahan natin na yung mga humihingi ng prangkisa ay may kapabilidad na ayusin ang problemang ito," she told ANC's Headstart.

(Some teachers go as far as climbing a tree to get a signal. I'm not saying this is correct, because our signal is bad. Wrong. That's why we hope that those applying for a franchise will have the capacity and competency to fix this problem)

She added, when the company presented before the Senate committee, "it was so underwhelming" that "you can have a gradeschooler do that presentation," as the officials only claimed to be able to provide faster internet connection and bigger coverage area.

"I think it’s an insult to the panel...Anybody can say that, but what is your track record? What is your experience in the past? Who is the person behind this? I don’t even know how he looks like," she said.

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She noted, companies such as Globe and Smart apply for franchise renewal, their top executives attend Senate hearings.

"I don’t want to say it, but I feel that they’re taking the panel for granted. I’d like to remind them that it’s not a right for them to have. It’s a privilege. We’re not charging them for the franchise, but they have to be able to deliver on the service," she said.

While the hearings have been suspended, Poe said the committee will look at Instant Data Inc's submissions again.

"Of course we may give them a chance, baka naman talagang hindi lang sila sanay mag-present, pero talagang mas kikilatisin natin kasi hindi pwedeng petiks lang yung application nila," she said.

(Maybe they're not used to present? But certainly, we will be meticulous and they should take their application seriously)

"We’re talking about a national franchise, not just for one area. Ang lakas naman ng loob ng kahit na sinong mag-apply ng national franchise tapos pupunta na hindi naman handa at hindi pinapahalagahan ang pagdinig," she said.

(They have the guts to apply for a national franchise, and was not even prepared and don't give importance to the hearings) 

Under the law, Congress is authorized to grant, deny, or renew franchise applications for telecommunications services in the country.

Instant Data needs to hurdle the House of Representatives' approval and pass through Poe's Committee on Public Services first, before their franchise application can be tackled in the Senate plenary.

Poe earlier gave Instant Data officials "another chance" to appear in a Senate franchise hearing to justify why they deserve to get a franchise.

The senator also instructed Instant Data to submit the "biodata" of its president to the Committee and explain what makes the company "capable of rolling out" its proposed service.

"We gave you a chance to have a franchise hearing before the year ends even if we are busy deliberating many other important bills in the Senate. I hope you don't take the time that we gave you lightly," she said in a Senate hearing on Monday.

NOT SINGLING OUT DITO

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Poe also denied singling out DITO Telecommunity after her committee deferred the renewal of its franchise while awaiting assurance it would be able to deliver on its commitment.

She said the committee is actually "making it more transparent for the people, and also maybe the executive to see their progress."

"We are not singling out anybody. We do this assessment for Globe and Smart...We have to look at the performance of all of these major telecommunications companies," she said.

"Especially right now, with our connection, we cannot risk not having a better connection service, otherwise our economy will stall. I think that it is really incumbent upon us to look at the deliverables and the commitments of all these telco companies," she added.

DITO - a consortium between Davao tycoon Dennis Uy's Udenna Corp and Chinese state-owned China Telecom - earlier committed to provide at least 27 mbps internet speed to 37 percent or some 7,425 barangays in its first year of service.

It is expected to rollout its services by March 2021. However, its franchise will lapse in 2023.

Poe said while all reports--including one from the National Telecommunications Commission, which said DITO was "on track"--are "rosy," she wants an independent audit to see in January if that is correct. She also wants a test run of the company's services.

"As of now, the tone that they have is that the initial deliverables will be met by January. Let’s see if that will happen. If they have it by January, that would be a good indication that their franchise will be approved. They have until 2023, technically. Hopefully, that should be enough even to their investors to know that they have the capability," she said.

- with Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

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