February 5, 2023

The city council has set an inquiry on the non-renewal of contract between Internet service provider, Converge ICT, and the Benguet Electric Cooperative on Nov. 23.

The inquiry, initiated by the Councilor Michael Lawana, a former director of Beneco, is an offshoot of the Oct. 27 announcement of Beneco that Converge has unilaterally terminated its partnership with the electric cooperative.

Lawana said the inquiry would center on the slow connectivity, poor customer service, and other matters affecting the services of Converge.

Beneco OIC General Manager Melchor Licoben said the non-renewal of contract may have raised questions especially from clients of Converge but he said it was a business decision that the Internet service provider chose to take.

“It’s a business decision of Converge. We know the contract will end,” Licoben said.

He said Beneco’s only continuing transaction is to charge Converge for the use of its poles.

Prior to the lapse of the deal, Licoben said there were attempts to renew the contract but the new business model proposed by Converge no longer fits the utility’s direction of providing not only electricity but also other services such as Internet connectivity.

In 2018, Converge has tapped Beneco for its expansion of operations in Northern Luzon. The contract was supposed to end in March this year but the lockdown and the attempts to renegotiate caused the delay in the transition.

Under the former agreement, Licoben said Beneco was like the satellite office of Converge. The power utility firm accepts, processes applications, and installs Internet. From the subscription fees, Beneco was paid a certain amount.

From 2018 to Oct. 31, 2020, Beneco installed 10,943 subscriptions for Converge.

Converge, on the other hand, was in charge of the maintenance of the backbone of Internet connectivity.

In the new proposal, Beneco’s functions will be limited to a non-exclusive arrangement of installation, payment center, and call center.

“Parang na-outsource na lang kami,” Licoben said. Based on the firm’s assessment, the new proposal is not financially viable. “Hindi rin maganda na nag-a-outsource kami ng ibang services tulad ng linemen tapos papayag kami na maging outsourced company na hindi pa exclusive.”

He recommended to the Beneco board of directors that the proposal of Converge was not worth pursuing.

Since Nov. 1, Converge has transferred to a new office.

The Courier tried to reach Converge for its comment through its representative in its Baguio office but as of Thursday, they did not return our call. – Rimaliza A. Opiña