MANILA—Before telecommunications giant Smart Communications could extend its franchise for another 25 years, Sen. Grace Poe on Monday said that they will first have to prove that they are subscribing to Philippine laws.
Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services, made this remark during the first hearing on Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri’s Senate Bill No. 1302, which seeks to extend Smart’s franchise for another 25 years.
Present in the hearing were stakeholders who aired their views, regulators who were asked if Smart has indeed complied with its duties which were part of the conditions to be given their existing franchise, and public interest groups or subscribers to gauge the telco’s service.
Poe said their comments and suggestions would help the committee in crafting the bill that will be eventually be endorsed to the plenary for debate.
“The fact that Smart has 70 percent of the country as customers does not mean that we in the Senate have no other option but rubberstamp our conformity with the bill that was passed by the House,” Poe said in her opening statement.
“Smart may have 70 million subscribers but it must also subscribe to our laws,” she added.
She also asked Smart several questions including whether the country’s internet speed has improved or whether it remained stuck in limbo like “traffic in EDSA”, and sought for updates on the rollout of cellular sites.
The senator noted the grant of franchise will be anchored on the guarantee of consistent good service and expressed hope that the telco could provide people with even better service in the coming days noting that it is also a solution to the country’s traffic crisis.
“I wish Smart can provide better service, as, I have repeatedly said, solving the traffic crisis will be a technology-aided enterprise,” Poe said.
“Smart is one information highway people can detour to when it would be impossible for them to physically go from one place and another. But we can only create an army of happy telecommuters if internet speed is fast and reliable,” she added.
She further said that she wanted to make sure that other telco companies can enter the playing field as to encourage competition and drive companies to provide better service.
At present, the House has already approved their version of the measure. The Senate, however, has yet to do the same.