I don’t know about you, but I’ve had days where wrestling with our slow to non-existent internet connection feels like a denial of my basic human rights.
I can’t do online research. I can’t check the email my boss sent me. It prevents me from beating a deadline. Sometimes I’ve had to wait it out so long that I’m forced to pay a late fee at the daycare when I pick up my son.
Maybe this is because today, internet access actually is a basic human right. The United Nations said so in a 22 page document back in 2011. It’s what important people like John Kerry have been saying since 2014. In 2013, a German judge even ruled that internet access is so essential, you can claim compensation for interruptions.
In the Philippines, where the internet moves at a glacial pace and the amount we pay for it, astronomical, we’ve come to dismiss it as just another one of the many inconveniences we have to put up with for living in a developing nation.
Meanwhile, as we continue to shrug our shoulders and sigh in exasperation while staring at that buffering download for the umpteenth time, that slow internet access is putting a dent on our economic future.
Consider these facts:
• The Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry is the Philippine’s third largest source of dollars after electronics and OFWs, which is targeted to reach $25B or almost 8% of GDP.
• The IT sector is larger than tourism and mining and has created higher paying jobs than agriculture, yet it does not have its own dedicated, focused government department to assist it.
• BPOs pay around P8,000 per month for 8 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload connection. In Malaysia, 10 Mbps download/upload connection cost P5,000 per month.
• The Department of Education says that a paltry 17 percent out of 42,000 barangays have internet connection.
• Broadbrand infrastructure is purely a private investment in the Philippines, and is being regulated by an outdated law that does not even include the words “internet,” “broadband,” “cellphones” or “computers”.
• In Singapore, telcos are fined millions of dollars if they fail to meet service standards. Fines also ensure the telcos companies maintain consistent service because investors get angry when fines are imposed.
It’s astounding how we’ve managed to entice IT companies to invest in the country despite having the slowest internet connection in ASEAN, where the country averages internet speeds of 2.1 Mbps, compared Singapore’s 8.4 Mbps. South Korea has the fastest speeds at an enviable 23.6 Mbps, based on an Akmai report in 2014.
Crying out “Human rights violation!” might sound a tad overdramatic, but we cannot discount how important the Internet has become in the 21st century. The UN report believes that it is one of the most powerful instruments “for increasing transparency in the conduct of the powerful, access to information, and for facilitating active citizen participation in building democratic societies.”
Slow internet access isn’t just cramping your style because you can’t post your selfie, like, #rightthisinstant. We’re not too far off in saying that it’s akin to having your fundamental human rights trampled on.
What’s your take on this issue?
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