How funny (or sad) is this?
The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), the Philippines’ official telco regulator, failed to attend yesterday’s Senate virtual hearing on basic education because of an abysmally slow internet connection.
So it’s not just us then?
Senator Francis Tolentino called NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios to join the hearing discussing new learning methods that may require the use of the internet as schools resume classes in August.
It’s unclear what teleconference platform the lawmakers were using to contact the commissioner on their laptop, but Cabarios was nowhere to be found.
“[The] NTC has no signal. That’s a very bad omen,” the senator joked.
The lawmaker said, while trying to maintain a straight face and suppressing a chuckle, that the telco regulator should have the strongest internet connection.
“NTC, are you still practicing state of the art technology?” Tolentino said, poking fun at the regulator.
After several minutes of failed attempts to converse with the agency’s commissioner, Tolentino’s colleague Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said, “It looks like [the] NTC has technical problems. If [the] NTC has technical problems, then I’m losing hope that online learning will happen in our country, because NTC is the regulator of telcos.”
“It’s unfortunate that your connection isn’t working because Senator Tolentino has some good queries for you,” he added.
The incident has left lawmakers frustrated, including Senator Grace Poe who told ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo today that the country has a “very incompetent regulator.”
She said that the incident emphasized a long-drawn issue on the country’s bad internet connectivity, which should be investigated.
“Maybe we will just ask telcos to report to the Senate directly, monthly on what they have been doing and if cases need to be filed against several people,” Poe said.
According to local internet provider Globe Telecom, the Philippines has close to 17,000 cell towers in 2018. This dwarfs in comparison to the number of towers in Indonesia and Vietnam, each of which has 91,000 and 70,000 cell sites respectively.
Schools were supposed to reopen on Aug. 24, but President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the postponement of face-to-face classes until a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes available, an order which Education Secretary Leonor Briones had no choice but to follow. Instead of teaching kids in a classroom setting, Briones and company are pushing for what they call “blended learning,” or the use of the internet and other forms of media to teach students.
Critics have said, however, that this novel method poses several challenges. For one, many Filipinos who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, won’t be able to purchase gadgets and pay for reliable internet connection. At this stage, families are already mulling the possibility that their children may have to drop out of school due to blended learning.
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