Broadband group hits insertion of new tech term in IRR of Free WiFi Law

By Ike Suarez The Better Broadband Alliance (BBA), an umbrella organization of civil society groups and tech-related groups, has called for scrapping of the term “Internet Technology Solutions Provider (ITSP)” in the proposed rules of RA 10929 or the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act.

BBA convenor Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos during the PH Telecom Summit in March In its place, the BBA has sought the return of the original term as found in the law enacted last August.

The original terms would be “Internet Service Provider” or “Private Sector Partner,” whichever is appropriate. In a position paper, the BBA said the use of the term ITSP is contrary to the intent of the law and would therefore have to be removed from the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR). The law intends to provide Filipinos with free access to the Internet in designated public places throughout the Philippines.

RA 10929 has designated the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) as the lead implementing agency. In line with this, the DICT has drawn up the draft IRR and has sought the public’s comments and recommendations. In response, the BBA has submitted its position paper.

“Adopting the term ITSP will reverse the key reform being introduced by RA 10928 — i.e. to allow ISPs to participate in the free Internet/WiFi Access program of the government without the need for a Congressional franchise of NTC provisional authority,” said the BBA’s position paper. By using the term ITSP, the meaning of the Free Internet Access Act, would be changed, the group said. Participation would now be limited to those who have a telco (backbone and middle mile network).

The BBA raised the following points: o The term “ITSP” is not found in the text of RA 10929, but the DICT introduced in the draft IRR, using it in several of its sections o It had effectively differentiated ITSP form ISPs

o The draft IRR had defined ITSPs as “service providers who shall supply, deliver, deliver, implement, manage and operate, partially or in whole, the backend and transport and access points”. It had defined ISPs separately as “literally the provider of the Internet” and the “vendors that offer telecom, cable and Internet services” o The term ITSP — and not ISP — was used with regard to acquisition and use of internet connectivity from satellite services and other emerging technologies

The BBA position paper cited Supreme Court jurisprudence that said IRRs must not extend or amend a legislative enactment. Such was promulgated in the case Lokin vs. Commission on Elections and House of Representatives.

Elaborating on the group’s position, BBA convenor Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos told Newsbytes.PH that retaining the term “ITSP” in the draft IRR “would undermine the mandate of two institutions — Congress and the Office of the President”. She said RA 10929 had been enacted to open up opportunities to a wider range of private sector partners and this intent would not be difficult to determine. “One simply needs to review the transcripts of public consultations, hearings, and technical working group meetings, or ask the legislators and stakeholders who worked together in crafting the law,” she said.

BBA’s members include the Philippine chapter of Internet Society (ISOC), the Game Developers Association of the Philippines (GDAP), ICT Davao Inc., Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA), and National Library of the Philippines.

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