Lagging, disconnected | Inquirer Opinion

Lagging, disconnected

It should be a real shame to us Filipinos how we have become used to utterly inferior, in-your-face horrible internet connection services. And it’s not just because we want to browse Facebook faster or play games without latency, or watch more cat videos. We are lagging and disconnected in more consequential ways, and we need to start catching up.

A quick review of the facts: Just last year, digital services provider Akamai published a “State of the Internet” report, showing that the global average internet speed is 5 megabits per second (Mbps). The Philippines’ speed? A meager 2.8 Mbps. Among Asia-Pacific countries, we are third from slowest.

In addition, Philippine internet is among the most expensive. According to a separate survey by speed test provider Ookla, the global average for monthly internet cost is $5.21 per Mbps. In the Philippines, this is more than tripled at $18.18. In Philippine currency, that means the global average is around P245, but we’re paying P852 or more each month.

At a glance, these numbers are infuriating because now that comparisons have been made, it is clear as day that we can have so much better. Why are we stuck with the worst service and price there are?


Over and over, analysts have named the culprits, No. 1 of which is the lack of real competition among internet service providers (ISPs). The business environment in the Philippines—fortified by high government fees, outdated regulations, and the status quo among major telcos—deters investors and companies from even entering the field.

Why this continues to happen is a question that our ISPs, government agencies, and other major players in the telecommunications industry ought to answer and address—not as a side note, not as a low-priority concern, but as a matter much more significant than we consider it now.

Internet access is neither a mere accessory nor a luxury. The United Nations has declared it a basic human right, and this shouldn’t really be a surprise. Connectivity is a prerequisite to our fast-moving, increasingly limitless world today.

For the Philippines, better and more affordable internet is a need. This is not so much for the sake of those who simply use it as a supplemental form of technology (e.g., to stream online radio when local FM stations play nothing good), as for those who are more profoundly deprived.


For one, those who need access to information these days cannot satisfy this need without access to the internet. Researchers seeking more material, students trying to do their homework, common citizens so perplexed by news on traditional media that they need to learn more about it from alternate sources. Increasingly, these people are relying on the wealth of information available online.

This is only logical, because online material is free, easy to access, up to date, and easy to triangulate. But these advantages are mostly elusive when one’s internet service crawls at a dismal speed or keeps disconnecting, so much so that even simple webpages do not load properly.


Deprived, too, are those who wish to improve themselves but are hindered by connectivity limitations. There are endless jobs, higher education courses, training opportunities, and productivity solutions available on the internet and which should easily be accessible to those who need them—if only they had consistent and reasonably priced internet connection. Even those who are working in outsourced online jobs often find themselves in a bind with substandard service from ISPs.

Further, quality internet service should be a key in building the nation and making it more globally competitive—or at least making it easier to live in. But at the rate we’re going, it is almost a laughable thought. For instance, we took a leap forward by switching to fully automated national and local elections, yet many voting precincts still had to manually transmit votes because their internet connection failed to do the job.

Imagine the countless valuable tools we could be using but cannot because of the lack of passable internet connection: educational supplements for regional schools and the out-of-school population, enterprise management solutions for small businesses, knowledge-sharing and agricultural management systems for farmers, real-time disaster monitoring and warning systems, and many others.

Various studies support how internet connectivity can improve lives and a nation in general. An analysis conducted by Ericsson revealed that in Brazil, India and China, a household with a minimum of 0.5 Mbps broadband connection could increase its income by $800 each year. For households that upgraded to 4 Mbps, income could grow by $46 per month.

On a larger scale, the World Bank estimated that a 10-percent increase in high-speed broadband connections brings 1.3 percent economic growth. The impact of such growth was found to be stronger in developing countries.

For a country that is so proud of its being the social media capital and a BPO economy, the Philippines is well and truly undermining the potential of good internet service.

This is something that both the private and public sectors of the industry need to seriously consider. We are not just viewing viral videos; we are watching CrashCourse episodes to understand our biology lessons better. We are not just following Instagram celebrities; we are monitoring typhoons and water levels. We are not just downloading games; we are downloading tools to make our lives—and the lives of others—easier.

That is, as much as 2.8 Mbps would let us.

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TAGS: internet, Speed

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