Hacking is something one would typically see in heist shows and science fiction films, yet fiction became fact last Thursday, May 28. Hackers took control of the customer service Twitter page of a local telecommunications company, using the account as a platform to demand improvements on the company’s internet services.
Such actions bring to the spotlight lingering problems with the telecommunications oligopoly, notably pertaining to the quality of their offered internet connections. With the current circumstances being heavily reliant on online procedures, many are increasingly observing and voicing frustrations over how underwhelming the provided services are from our local telecommunication companies.
According to Speedtest, just last April this year, the Philippines found itself with an average download speed of 21 megabits per second (mbps)—a disappointing figure when the global average for the same month was 74.74 mbps. Not to mention there are plenty of households who have no access to the internet at all.
In a time like now, such holes in internet infrastructure should not be left unanswered.
A large portion of the population has turned to online conferences and remote working conditions. Though many have yet to fully adapt to the work-from-home setup, those that have gone digital encounter struggles with disconnections and lag; slowness and poor quality impeding the smooth flow of work; and the inability of some team members and colleagues to participate. All of these stem back to the importance of stable and fast internet services.
Many have begun to rely on online shopping and online food delivery apps due to the grueling quarantine restrictions; meanwhile, those without access and who cannot have supplies delivered to their homes typically have to go out and risk exposure in order to buy basic necessities. Moreover—despite the general community quarantine having been rolled out—movement restrictions are still in place and the virus remains circulating, making these online services necessary to most.
Equally affected is the education sector. News upon news of students struggling to meet class requirements due to low signal and bad internet connections crop up weekly. In my classes during the past term, the attendance count of synchronous class conferences often never made it to half of the original class size—the most used reason being the internet connection of the students prevents them from joining.
Perhaps these problems are not as evident in the metro, yet for other provinces, it is heavily felt.
Our village in Laguna has been experiencing a plethora of problems with our internet stability throughout the quarantine. Daily, the connection would stutter or simply die, lasting about an hour to several days without internet access. A neighbor of ours even claimed that the customer service of their internet provider has been ineffective during these disconnects; whenever their call does get picked up, the person on the other end of the line would at times hang up in the middle of their conversation.
Throughout this period, I have personally missed the timeframe set for the pre-enlistment of classes, a myriad of class conference calls, as well as the punctual completion of deliverables for this very publication. Productivity simply took a massive hit due to these circumstances.
Though many surely would want to do their jobs, they can be sorely limited by their connection to the internet. Contrary to how easy telecommunication company advertisements claim it to be, upgrading one’s connection is not exactly a viable option to all.
Not everyone has the financial means to raise their internet bill monthly, most especially with layoffs and impeded work due to the quarantine. Not everyone can say they have fiber or high-speed connections available in their area. Some would even say mobile data subscriptions are their only way to connect to the internet.
Many Filipinos have been firm with the stand on demanding better internet access for years—in terms of both the area it is covered and connection speed. With the advent of technology and the state of the world in this pandemic, it is inevitable that many sectors will continue to shift to an even stronger reliance on the internet.
If we are tasked to conform to a predominantly online setting, then it is only fair and just for institutions to provide effective services and to establish structures that allow us to comply with such.
Though hacking into the telecommunications company’s customer service social media account itself was not warranted, perhaps it is an evident sign that a significant upgrade is needed. After all, it seems the intent was to voice out the problems many Filipinos experience with their internet services. It would be integral for them to listen and care about the people they are serving.