It cannot be business as usual for our telcos – Hontiveros

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday urged telecommunications giant Smart Communications Inc. (Smart) to be more transparent if they want their franchise to be renewed for another 25 years. “It cannot be business as usual for our telcos. We call on Smart to fully comply with the terms of its franchise and to be more transparent about its corporate structure and ownership,” Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros made this call following reports that the Philippines currently has the slowest internet speed in the Asia-Pacific due to the lack of other providers and the fact that only one company controls much of the country’s infrastructure.

The Senate also continues to conduct hearings on Senate Bill No. 1302, which seeks to extend the franchise of Smart, which is also wireless subsidiary of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) Inc.

She said Smart subscribers should be given the service they paid for. “We will not allow Smart’s subscribers to be held hostage to inferior service while paying fees that are comparatively higher than many of our Asian neighbors,” she added.

Republic Act 7925 states that no telco can operate without a franchise from Congress and a Certificate of Public Convenience from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

As part of the conditions of the franchise, Smart is also obligated to offer at least 30 percent of its stock to the public. However, Smart has not complied.

For its part, Smart maintained that its parent company, PLDT, is a publicly listed entity thus it no longer needs to fulfill this condition.

Smart and PLDT have separate registrations under the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).