By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter

A THREE-YEAR period is enough for fixed and mobile internet service providers to cover all unserved and underserved areas in the Philippines, according to DITO Telecommunity Corp., agreeing with the proposed measure that seeks to improve internet service and access across the country.

“Three years is enough. For us in DITO, covering the underserved is already part of our government commitments,” DITO Chief Administrative Officer Adel A. Tamano told BusinessWorld in a phone message on Monday, when asked to comment on Senator Mary Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares’ Senate Bill No. 329, or the Better Internet Act.

Ms. Poe’s bill wants the National Telecommunications Commission to require all public telecommunications entities, or telecommunications companies that require a Congressional franchise, and internet service providers, which operate without a franchise, to extend and expand the service coverage of fixed and mobile internet service in all unserved and underserved areas “within three years from the effectivity of the measure.”

“The two other major telcos have had two decades to do just that and with more funding available,” Mr. Tamano said.

Globe Telecom, Inc. and the PLDT group were also asked to comment.

Under the bill, service providers are encouraged to provide a higher internet speed to their customers. There is no minimum internet speed requirement for free internet service.

Eastern Communications, a broadband provider jointly owned by PLDT, Inc. and Globe Telecom, said it agrees with the intention of the bill to provide underserved and unserved areas around the Philippines, “which has always been part of our company’s plans.”

“We are fervently working on our regional expansion, providing connectivity to areas across Visayas and Mindanao, recently reaching areas such as Butuan, Naga, Bacolod, Sorsogon, and Legazpi, among other areas,” Eastern Communications Co-Coordinator Aileen D. Regio said in an e-mailed reply to questions on July 15.

“We also believe in the thrust that reliable internet connection is crucial for the advancement of Filipino businesses and everyday life,” she added.

Sought for comment, Alliance Towers Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Alvin D. Tolentino said the three-year period “is very challenging coming from where we are now.”

“Unserved and underserved areas need to be defined. We have a lot of areas where it is sparsely populated. Are they going to be covered, too?” he said in a phone message on July 14.

Ms. Poe’s bill seeks to require the Department of Information and Communications Technology to identify unserved and underserved areas in the Philippines.

The bill directs service providers to adhere to minimum standards for connection, reception, pricing, and billing practices to uphold and protect consumer rights.

“The internet has become a necessity as indispensable as electricity and water. We rely on it for health, education, business, governance and more,” Ms. Poe said.

In a related development, fiber internet provider Converge ICT Solutions, Inc. announced on Monday that it won the Ookla Speedtest Award for “Top-Rated Fixed Network in the Philippines for the first half of 2022, reflecting the results from consumer-initiated ratings during the six-month period.”

The Top-Rated Awards is part of the semi-annual Speedtest Awards presented by Ookla, the network testing company behind Speedtest.

“Last June, the company upgraded the speed of its base FiberX internet plan for free, from 50 megabits per second (Mbps) to 100Mbps, making it faster than the country’s median average,” Converge said in an e-mailed statement.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls.