The Philippine Internet Commerce Society (PICS) commended the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) last week for issuing new guidelines deregulating the provision of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) services.
The guidelines, contained in Memorandum Circular No. 05-08-2005, were finalized by the Commission late last week and will become effective 15 days after their publication in a major newspaper to be selected by the NTC.
The new rules reiterate the NTC’s earlier finding contained in its Memorandum issued on March 29 that VOIP is a value-added service. Thus, unlike providers of traditional voice services, VOIP providers need not obtain a separate franchise from the Philippine Congress. Instead, VOIP providers will be allowed to register with the NTC and the provision of their services shall primarily be governed by contractual arrangements.
A significant number of Internet stakeholders have come to view VOIP as a breakthrough technology that will facilitate the use of the Internet as a cost-effective and interactive medium for communication between connected end users. The official position of PICS is that an enhanced and cheaper channel for personal communications will provide the general public with a truly competitive alternative to traditional voice services and thus, eventually, pave the way for significant growth in electronic commerce by Filipinos. PICS issued and filed a position paper to such effect with the NTC last year.
“We are very pleased that the NTC has adopted our position. There is no question that the deregulation of VOIP by the NTC will significantly benefit electronic commerce and all of our constituents eventually,” said PICS President Mary Anne D. Tolentino. “By facilitating greater access to the end user and enhancing competition for communications services, it is clear that the real winner here is the market and our economy,” she further explained.
VOIP deregulation is one of eight priority issues on the policy agenda of PICS. With the recognition by the NTC of VOIP as a value-added service and the provision of implementing guidelines for such, PICS will now shift its advocacy efforts in this key area to Congress, where PICS and other Internet stakeholder organizations hope to secure the passage of legislation further strengthening and enhancing such regulatory recognition.
To those with a position contrary to PICS, Ms. Tolentino clarified that “what we want to emphasize is the big picture. The foundation of our position is that deregulating VOIP will actually create more opportunities for everyone to virtually communicate, and this in turn will translate to more Filipinos using such opportunities to engage in electronic commerce. Eventually, we believe that the greater volume of economic transactions generated will benefit all stakeholders, such as consumers who will be provided with more choice, product and service providers who now have a bigger market to share, and even the Government in the form of more taxable income. In the long run, everyone wins.”