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Telcos’ greed, worse than power firms

Tue, Dec 22, 2009

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Consumer group TXTPower today kept the pressure at the country’s telecommunications companies for refusing to implement per-pulse charging that would lower cellphone calling rates.

“Smart, Globe and Sun Cellular act as if they are masters of the industry who follow no one except the beat of their bankers,” said TXTPower president Tonyo Cruz, who attended and spoke at Monday’s hearing by the Senate trade and commerce committee.

“Telcos must be made to understand that they operate public-utility companies that are imbued with the public interest like fair billing billing practices and low pricing. They have to follow the country’s laws,” said Cruz.

According to the eight-year old consumer group, the power industry abides by regulatory practices and policies of the Energy Regulatory Commission while the telcos merely want the National Telecommunications Commission “to follow their own whimsical and capricious practices.”

Instead of complying with the new NTC Circular mandating a shift from per-minute to per-pulse billing, the telcos Smart and Globe made the new billing scheme optional with the companies requiring subscribers to use prefixes to be charged per-pulse.

“That is not compliance. That is a clear violation of the circular,” said Cruz.

Cruz reminded the telcos that their congressional franchises Batas Pambansa 95 for Globe, Republic Act 7294 for Smart and Republic Act 7678 require them to follow rates set by the NTC.

TXTPower singled out Globe Telecom president Ernest Cu who admitted in an interview on ABS-CBNNews.com that “If you’re a telco, how do you convince a farmer to spend his money on prepaid load over food? And
how can you make him choose you over the other telco? How do you keep him spending? That’s where the challenge is.”

“That is not only callous. It is a mindset that is totally against the public-utility nature of the telecommunications sector,” said Cruz.

“The intransigence of the telcos’ over the NTC circular on per-pulse billing is only the latest and most brazen violation of consumer rights that they have done so far. Consumers have a long list of complaints which hopefully the NTC would act on and compel them to resolve,” said Cruz. ###

Statement before the Senate trade and commerce committee hearing

Mon, Dec 21, 2009

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By Anthony Ian Cruz
President
TXTPower.org Inc.

Honorable Senate President Enrile, Committee Chairman Senator Mar Roxas and members of the Senate trade and commerce committee:

Thank you for inviting us to appear and speak before you today on behalf of consumers.

We refrained from issuing any statement on the new per-pulse charging scheme announced by the National Telecommunications Commission until Friday as we sought to look at how the industry regulator would implement its circular and whether the telecommunications companies Smart and Globe would comply.

On the NTC

First, we are outraged that the NTC has allowed itself to be used as a doormat by the telcos. How the NTC has acted since issuing and attempting to implement its circular confirms the worst fears of consumers and members of Congress: That the NTC, the industry regulator, has apparently lost sight of its mandate and powers under law and allowed the telcos they are supposed to regulate to dictate telecom regulations in the country.

Wittingly or unwittingly, the NTC admits through its action and inaction, that it is infected with a serious disease of Deregulation Complex. It always hides behind “deregulation” to defend the telcos when consumers complain and when Congress raises the relevant questions. Pinampapalo po sa ulo ng consumers ‘yang Republic Act 7925 pero pang-protekta naman para sa telcos.

We might as well consider abolishing the NTC and instead form a new regulatory body. As taxpayers, we deserve more than the NTC. A new body should be insulated from presidential whim and caprice. We also believe that the current President has abused her prerogatives and powers in appointing a string of incompetents to the NTC which could be partly blamed for the mess we are all in. A regulator must be the champion of the interests of the Republic and the people, not of the telcos they are supposed to regulate.

On the telcos

Second, your Honors, we are no longer surprised by the actuations of the lord and masters of the telecommunications industry.

On the issue of per-pulse billing, the telcos are pretending they did not know that the NTC circular prior to its implementation in intra-network calls on December 6 and in inter-network calls on Dec. 16. They are of course lying because the NTC signed it way back in July.

As of today, Smart, Globe and Sun remain recalcitrant and unapologetic for violating the NTC circular. The default charging for calls remain per-minute, not per-pulse.

In the case of Smart, it has seen it perfectly legal to reinterpret the circular as allowing them to make it a mere optional billing offer. If Smart subscribers wish to get per-pulse charging, they have to use prefixes which are different across its four mobile brands. Neither has Smart sent advisories to subscribers about this option – which is a disservice to the 40 million subscribers of the Smart network. There is apparently an intention to just pretend to follow the circular.

One explanation for this arrogant and strong refusal to abide by the circular are the billions of pesos in projected income from Christmas and New Year calls.

To illustrate the mentality of the telcos which badly need tough government regulation, allow me to quote a report published yesterday by ABS-CBNNews.com:

“If you’re a telco, how do you convince a farmer to spend his money on prepaid load over food? And how can you make him choose you over the other telco? How do you keep him spending? That’s where the challenge is.”

That’s a direct quote from Mr. Ernest Cu, chief executive officer of Globe Telecom.

It is perhaps time to review and revoke Batas Pambansa 95, Republic Act 7294, and Republic Act 7678.

How to lower call rates

We in TXTPower hope the Senate would guide the NTC on how to implement the law that mandates it to regulate the industry.

This shift from per-minute to per-pulse billing is one step forward. Let us get it done with in time for the holidays. Let it be a gift of Congress to the over 70 million mobile phone users in the world’s texting capital.

Lower call rates are good for consumers and for businesses as well. It could even be good for telcos themselves because of increased volume of cheaper calls.

We raise the following suggestions by way of questions:

1. PLDT, the parent company of Smart, now offers P1.50 per minute calls to the US. Sun Cellular meanwhile offers P2.00 per minute calls to the five major countries. Why are international calls now generally cheaper than local cellular-to-cellular calls?

2. When was the last time the NTC reviewed and repegged the rates for calls, text and other cellphone services? Have they remained the same – if so, why? What is now the true cost of a minute or a pulse of cellphone calls? Are the nominal or promo rates set arbitrarily by telcos?

3. What is the current status of interconnection charges? Have they remained the same – if so, why?

4. Has the NTC performed audits of pricing and billing practices, software and hardware acquisitions, and financial records of the telcos?

5. Has there been any move in Congress to exercise oversight on the telcos’ franchises? Are they complying with their franchises?

6. Has Congress bothered to make a sweeping review of Republic Act 7925 from the point of view of consumers and considering the nefarious activities of telcos?

We in TXTPower look forward to helping the Senate, through this committee and the Senate President, find answers to these questions and bring about much-needed changes in the industry. ###

Punish, suspend telcos’ franchises for violating per-pulse billing rule

Sat, Dec 19, 2009

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We in TXTPower are asking Congress and the National Telecommunications Commission to crack down on the country’s telecommunications companies for failing to comply with the new per-pulse billing of mobile phone calls.

Per-pulse billing must be implemented immediately for the benefit of consumers. Telcos are dragging their feet perhaps to keep the unfair per-minute billing through the highly lucrative Christmas and New Year holiday season.

It is obvious that Smart, Globe and Sun Cellular have not complied with NTC Memorandum Circular 05-07-2009 which requires them to implement per-pulse billing on intra-network calls last Dec. 6 and on inter-network calls last Dec. 6.

As of today, per-pulse billing is only optional for subscribers of Smart, Globe and Sun Cellular. The two companies require subscribers to use prefixes to avail of the per-pulse billing. Up until today, the default remains per-minute billing – a clear violation of the NTC order. (more…)

TXTPower update: Last check turned over to PNRC; Final tally of donations: P1,722,817.29

Tue, Oct 13, 2009

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TXTPower update: Last check turned over to PNRC; Final tally of donations: P1,722,817.29

This afternoon, our fundraising drive for typhoon Ondoy’s victims, with the Philippine National Red Cross as beneficiary, came to a close with the PNRC receiving the fifth and last check for P44,379.66. Total amount donated and turned over stands at P1,722,817.29.

We have sent Gwendolyn Pang, PNRC secretary-general, a report on these donations as well as a list of donors. We will be forwarding to them also the donors’ email addresses so the PNRC can send each of them an acknowledgment for their donations, net of Paypal’s fees and charges.

Also today, we received a call from the general manager of Paypal Southeast Asia & India, the outcome of which may help us and others launch online fundraising campaigns for typhoon Pepeng’s victims in Northern Luzon in the very near future.

We will publish a final report on this fundraising campaign soon after a meeting of TXTPower’s board of trustees set for tomorrow.

Ondoy fundraising update: Good news and bad news

Sat, Oct 10, 2009

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First, the good news: We brought our fourth check (P493,047.20) to the Philippine National Red Cross yesterday. It brought to P1,678,437.63 the total amount of donations for typhoon victims we’ve received from nearly 1,000 donors from 37 countries and promptly turned over to the Red Cross.

Again, we thank everyone who supported this fundraiser. Thank you for the trust you gave TXTPower.

We actually want to continue this fundraising and perhaps choose other equally worthy beneficiaries as we grapple with the tragedies brought by Ondoy and Pepeng, but circumstances forced us to stop — which brings us to…

… the bad news: Paypal now bans charities and non-profits in Asia Pacific from using their service to receive donations.

In due time, we hope to resume fundraising efforts as the death toll continues to rise (300+ for Ketsana/Ondoy, 125 for Parma/Pepeng) and the number of people seeking relief aid climb in the aftermath of two typhoons that hit the Philippines.

TXTPower supports Blog Action Day 2009 locally and globally

Thu, Oct 8, 2009

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On Oct. 15, Filipinos are taking a stand on climate change, together with the rest of the world.

We will be one with them on Blog Action Day 2009 on climate change.

Join us.

House surprises public with new text tax bill, worse than original proposal

Tue, Oct 6, 2009

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The House Ways and Committee today held a public hearing regarding the proposed tax on text messages and other mobile phone services.

We issued this  statement after the hearing: (more…)

Update: TXTPower total donations to Red Cross now at P1,185,390.40

Fri, Oct 2, 2009

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TXTPower today brought to the Philippine National Red Cross a third check, bringing to P1,185,390.40 the amount we raised and given to PNRC for the benefit of typhoon Ondoy victims in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

The PNRC receipted today’s check bearing the amount P603,953.54 under official receipt number 022768 dated Oct. 2, 2009. We have earlier turned over two other checks: P94,752.50 last Sept. 30 (receipt number 0460385) and P486,684.39 yesterday Oct. 1 (receipt number 022665). These came from your online and mobile donations.

PNRC secretary-general Gwendolyn Pang promised TXTPower president Anthony Ian Cruz that the Red Cross will acknowledge and thank in its website the donors who coursed their donations through TXTPower. Those who still wish to make on online donation to the PNRC to send money to its official Paypal address: give@redcross.org.ph

Until we stopped the online fundraising yesterday, there remained a substantial amount in the Paypal account we used. We are waiting for Paypal to transmit those amounts for proper and swift turnover to the PNRC. We publicly urge Paypal expedite the release of the donations. Please note that PhilippineAid.com encountered a similar problem. Paypal, which has not offered any direct help to typhoon victims by way of transaction fee discounts, should at the very least not resort to technicalities and immediately release the funds that belongs to the victims of typhoon Ondoy.

Again, thank you to all those who supported the TXTPower fund drive. Perhaps in the next few hours or days, we may launch another, hopefully bigger campaign.

Donate directly to Red Cross via Paypal

Thu, Oct 1, 2009

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TXTPower today ends its fundraising drive for the Philippine National Red Cross.

You may still donate to the PNRC via its official Paypal address: give@redcross.org.ph

You may also donate to other credible organizations, such as the Citizens Disaster Response Center (CDRC).

We will turn over proceeds from our donation drive as soon as Paypal transmits them. Yesterday, we turned over a check amounting to over P94,000. Today, we will give them another worth over P480,000.

Thank you to all those who donated via TXTPower!

Over P1.2-million for Ondoy victims via Paypal

Tue, Sep 29, 2009

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[UPDATE, Oct. 1, 2009: Donate directly to the Philippine National Red Cross via its official Paypal address: give@redcross.org.ph]

As of 3:25 pm today, Sept. 29, TXTPower’s fundraising campaign for victims of typhoon Ondoy has gathered a total of P1,217,188.96.

For the past 24 hours, we received the following:

Paypal: P633,497.07
GCash: P1,255.00
SmartMoney: P1,000.00

Where are the donations now? We are waiting for Paypal to transfer them to the Philippine bank account. Once transferred, we will get manager’s checks payable to the Philippine National Red Cross. We have informed the PNRC, thru the office of secretary-general Gwendolyn Pang, about this donation drive.

We will update the list of donors shortly. If you wish to add to this “honors list”, along with the hundreds from over 18 countries, donate now via Paypal and send some help to Ondoy’s victims.

TXTPower convenor and Kabataan Rep. Mong Palatino is calling on students in Metro Manila and Rizal to volunteer for relief operations and to help gather donations and contributions in cash or kind, after government suspended classes in these areas. Students can contact Tulong Kabataan at 118-B Scout Rallos, Bgy. Sacred Heart, Quezon City with mobile number 0926-6677163.

Also, Mike Villar, one of our friends at PhilippineAid.com, said that they will redirect their Chip-in drive to TXTPower’s due to problems with Paypal. We hope Paypal would not give us any problems and instead discounts on transaction fees on donations made by friends of the Philippines from across the world.

Again, thank you to all those from around the world who have helped us.

Wanna help Ondoy victims? Donate now via Paypal.

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Ondoy's Trail of Fury from Glenn Omanio on Vimeo.



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