Catanduanes Rep. Joseph Santiago, chairman of the House committee on information and communications technology, is pushing for new legislation that would reduce considerably the cost of telephone calls through the aggressive promotion of Internet-based call services.
Santiago has revived the bill seeking to “totally liberalize” Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP), a service that enables people to use the web as the medium for conveying voice calls.
House Bill 1328, authored by Santiago, mandates the NTC to ensure that VOIP services become available to the greatest number of consumers at the shortest possible time.
VOIP is a method for taking analog audio signals, like when talking on the phone, and turning them into digital data that can then be transmitted over the Internet.
The practical upshot of this method is that by using some of the free VOIP software that is available to make Internet phone calls, telephone companies (and their user charges) are totally bypassed.
Thus, VOIP calls do not incur a surcharge beyond what the user is paying for Internet access, much in the same way that the user does not pay anything for sending and receiving electronic mail over the web.
“There is no stopping VOIP. In the United States alone, VOIP subscribers are growing by leaps and bounds. The most conservative studies estimate that more than 44 million Americans will be using VOIP to make calls by 2010,” Santiago said.
Under Santiago’s bill, the NTC would ascertain the interconnection rates to be paid by VOIP service providers to network operators, mainly telephone companies.
The NTC would see to it that VOIP service providers enjoy a fair and reasonable margin, in order to keep them viable.
Network operators would be required “to ensure equal access in terms of quantity and quality” to all entities supplying Internet-based phone services.
Also under the bill, network operators would be banned from discriminating against VOIP service providers, and from degrading in any way the access of their subscribers.
For this purpose, the parties would be required to submit copies of their interconnection or access agreements to the NTC, for monitoring and supervision.