Many to lose access to telco services

This article is available in PilipinoBisaya

Even before the mandatory SIM card registration was set to be implemented, concerns have been raised regarding disenfranchisement of millions of service users in the countryside. Since December 27 last year, all new SIM card users are required to register. Meanwhile, old SIM card users were given 180 days to register to avoid deactivation.

Among those who expressed concern are Bani and her family who long had a problem with slow internet signal in their area. To get a connection, they need to go out of the house by 100 meters. They live in a secluded barrio in Negros nearly 20 kilometers away from the town center where there is a stable signal. If they travel just to register, they will spend ₱60 per person for their fare.

Bani is a Grade 9 student and relies on her cellphone for communication with her classmates and friends. She uses it for social media and the occasional school research. Her mother Jodi also uses a phone to call her relatives. Her father Boy uses it for coordination with his construction work and other jobs.

Josi, a 22-year old student in Masbate City had then also expressed concerns. It often takes her five hours or more in a day to finish her studies because internet signal is erratic in their house. Although she has an ID and knows how to register, she struggled with the complicated processes. She knows their connection will not be stable enough because she lives far from the town center.

Tatay Sabat, a farmer from Himamaylan City, expects that the SIM Card Registration will cause difficulties and distress. He has no valid ID which he can use to register. If forced, he will need to acquire one. Apart from a waste of time, it will cost him double. Dilly from Legazpi City has the same fears who struggles to earn enough because of the damage caused by the pandemic.

According to a report in 2020, 57% or 12.2 million Filipino families are not connected to the internet. During the same period, the country had one of the slowest internet connections (16.76 megabytes per second compared to the 32.01 mbps international average). Although telecommunication companies boast that the country’s internet speed will have accelerated by 2021, through the setting up of 5G infrastructure, the general signal connection in the countryside which relies on 3G, if not 2G, remains slow and inconsistent. Even worse, the service is very expensive.

Failed registration system

All the people’s fears have been proven true in the early hours of the SIM card registration. Challenges and problems met registrants. Over social media, many expressed their dismay with the slow and confusing, if not outright broken, SIM card registration process. Many said it took them a few hours just to register. According to others, the registration page of telecommunication companies were slow.

Around 11 a.m. on the first day of registration, the company Smart announced that that their registration website encountered a problem caused by an overload of registrants. The Globe website experienced the same problem.

Others complained on social media “ayusin niyo naman!” (fix this!) “anyare???” (what happened???) “anu na? Since 3am pa ako naghihintay makapasok sa websites” (what now? I Have been waiting since 3am just to access the website) and several other complaints and frustrations.

Meanwhile, technology experts and digital and privacy rights advocates criticized the policies of telecommunication companies which asked for a “selfie” or a self-portrait upon registration.

They also criticized the inserted “agreements” where companies sought the subscribers’ consent to have their personal information “sold” or commercialized by the company. Becuase of the criticisms, telecommunication companies argued this was only “optional” but later removed them from the list of agreeements.

They said that the SIM Card Registration violated several privacy rights, in addition to the glitches and causing widespread disenfranchisement from telecommunication services. They continue to demand: Junk SIM Card Registration! Fight for the people’s right to privacy!

Many to lose access to telco services