December 1, 2023

Policymakers must clearly identify the public interest at stake and assess the government’s enforcement capacity to identify the most suitable regulatory approach and instrument should the Philippines adopt net neutrality regulations, according to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) discussion paper.

Authors Ramonette Serafica and Queen Cel Oren, senior research fellow and research specialist, respectively, at the PIDS, said the government could first create a technical working group and seek inputs from various stakeholders to understand their view on discrimination in Internet access as well as their experience with network congestion and bandwidth pricing, among others.

Stakeholders include industry associations and firms like content and online service providers to Internet service providers and network providers, relevant non-governmental organizations and academe, and consumer groups.

 “Their inputs will inform to what extent net neutrality principles should be applied in information and communications technology (ICT) regulations regarding policies and practices, exceptions, and transparency requirements in managing data traffic,” the authors said.

It will also help the government assess net neutrality’s priority level and gravity, they said.

Serafica and Oren said several regulations are in place to prevent anti-competitive discriminatory practices in the ICT sector.

 “It would be useful to determine if existing access regulations have helped create a level playing field before additional nondiscriminatory regulations are introduced that would have implications across the entire internet value chain,” they said.

Citing an earlier study, they added there may be a need to clarify the interpretation of the non-discrimination provision in the regulation governing value-added services to ensure it is consistent with the intention of the policy, which is to prevent a vertically integrated Internet access and service provider to discriminate against rival internet service providers.

Serafica and Oren said an open Internet policy is ideal where all content can reach all users and vice-versa.
“In a country where the digital divide is still a major problem, net neutrality regulation could be a double-edged sword that must be carefully wielded, given the potentially dampening effect on network expansion and the introduction of novel services,” they added.

Serafica and Oren said the country’s adoption of net neutrality regulations depends on the ultimate objective, and whether the approach taken will have clear-cut results.

 “Net neutrality may lead to unintended consequences depending on how the regulation is specified and implemented,” they added. – Press release