By Mario Casayuran

Senator Manuel “Lito’’ Lapid today sought a Senate investigation, in aid of legislation, on the status of the country’s internet connectivity, speed, bandwidth capacity and relevant parameters in light of the “new normal” that would be observed as the country continues to face the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lapid has filed Senate Resolution 414 seeking the inquiry as the government relaxes quarantine protocols starting this week, placing majority of the areas in the country under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) or Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ).

He noted that many of the offices would still rely on work-from-home arrangements to limit the movement of the employees.

“Even the upcoming resumption of classes will rely heavily on distant or online learning,’’ he said.

Lapid said the shift in the mode of work and education including our day-to-day transactions like banking and online shopping would rely on stable and fast internet connectivity.

“Magiging epektibo lamang ang pagtatrabaho sa ilalim ng work-from-home arrangement at maging sa online classes kung may mabilis at maaasahan tayong internet connection. Ang internet ang magiging bagong puhunan ngayon ng mga opisina, negosyo at paaralan para makapagpatuloy sila ng maayos ng operasyon sa harap pa rin ng krisis dulot ng covid 19. Kaya mahalagang malaman kung kumusta ba ang kundisyon ng internet connection sa ating bansa at kung paano matutugunan ang mga problema kaugnay nito. Maisisiwalat at mapag-uusapan lamang ito ng maigi sa pamamagitan ng isang pagdinig sa Senado na syang hinihiling ko,” Lapid said.

(The effectivity of work-from-home arrangement and even online classes depend on fast and reliable internet connection. The internet will become the norm in the offices, businesses and schools for normal operations as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. That is why there is a need to know the status of internet connection in the country and how problems could be addressed through this public hearing.)

The Philippines has not fared well, historically, in terms of internet speed as compared to other countries.

‘’Based on the April 2020 Speed Test Global Index, the Philippines ranks 121st out of 139 countries in terms of mobile internet speed. While on the aspect of fixed broadband connection speed, we are placed at 110 out of 174 countries,’’ Lapid said.

“Talagang nakakadismaya ang internet service dito sa Pilipinas lalo na kung ikukumpara sa mga kalapit ng bansa na malayo na ang narating pagdating sa aspetong ito. Isa sa mga tinitignang dahilan ng napakabagal nating internet ay dahil sa kakulangan ng imprastruktura para mapabilis at mapalakas ang connectivity. Isa itong bagay na dapat matalakay naming mga mambabatas para mahanapan ng solusyon dahil hindi lang naman ngayon kakailanganin ang mabilis na internet connection. Itinuturing na ito na sa mga pangunahing pangangailangan ng ating mga kababayang hanggang sa hinaharap,” Lapid cited.

(It is sad that the internet service in the Philippines is so far behind compared to neighboring countries. We will see whether or not there are enough infrastructures to accelerate a strong and fast connectivity. This is one aspect that lawmakers will try to determine and eventually come up with solutions. Internet connectivity is a must.)

Based on the 2019 data compiled by Tower Xchange, there are only at least 17, 850 cell sites in our country, in comparison to the over 90,000 cell sites in Vietnam, which has a similar land area.

Lapid pointed out that even in Senate sessions, hearings and meetings where they adopt hybrid virtual mode, there have been times when they experienced erratic and slow internet connection.

He said he believes that it is imperative to determine the actual state of internet connectivity in the country in order to properly re-calibrate our laws and policies in response to the possible skyrocketing of demand and number of users in the coming months.