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Poe assures transparent, fair telco franchise hearings

SENATOR Grace Poe assured her public services panel is transparent and fair in dealing with telecommunications providers seeking franchise to ensure that they deliver on their commitments for the benefit of the people.

We want to make this transparent for the welfare of our people. We are not singling out anybody. In fact, we do this assessment also for the other telcos,” Poe said in an interview Tuesday, when asked about the franchise application of Dito Telecommunity Corp.

Poe reiterated that she expects Dito to make good on its promises according to timeline as a prerequisite for the approval of its franchise.

If we shall give the privilege of a franchise to a company that is promising to provide better service, we must hold it accountable to that, particularly now that connectivity is a necessity,” Poe said.

Dito’s franchise will not expire until 2023, and before we grant that franchise, they must fulfill the commitments they’ve made which were supposed to have been delivered in July, but because of the pandemic, they sought and were given an extension until January next year, subject to a technical evaluation: They should provide a minimum standard of 27 mbps speed for internet connection; and should cover 37 percent of the population,” the chairperson of the Senate committee on public services said in an interview.

So after they show that they are able to honor their commitments and provide for all of those, then that will be a basis for us to determine if they’re really eligible for another 25 years,” she said.

Poe earlier cited that her panel wanted to avoid situations where companies hold off on their rollout commitments as they anticipate to be granted fresh franchise.

Dito, formerly Mislatel, won the bidding to be the country’s third telco in 2018. Among its commitments were to provide a minimum average broadband speed of 27 mbps on its first year and make it faster at 55 mbps on its fifth year, when it should have covered 84 percent of the population.

Senators have also raised concerns on Dito’s partnership with China Telecoms, especially on account of China’s law requiring all its subjects to report to the Chinese government any information it asks of them.

As of now the tone that they (Dito) have is that the initial deliverables will be met by January. Now, let’s see if that will happen. If they have that by January, it will be a good indication that their franchise will be approved,” Poe added.