March 29 of every year marks the anniversary of one of the most important events in the digital history of the Philippines: the day when the Philippines was first connected to the internet. Although 27 years have already passed since this important event has taken place, it appears that the state of the internet in the Philippines has made little progress, rendering the majority of Filipinos not receive the benefits of this vital technology.
The quality of the internet in the Philippines is way behind in comparison to other countries globally and with its ASEAN neighbors. According to the Ookla Speedtest’s January 2021 digital report, the Philippines ranked 111th and 86th globally and 6th in the ASEAN region in terms of fixed broadband connection and a mobile internet connection, respectively . This is despite the fact the gap in years between the first reception of the internet in the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries is not that far .
Aside from its commonly known shabby state, internet access in the Philippines is unequally distributed. While the urban areas and rich cities have been bombarded and promised by different telecoms of 5G internet connection, the people in far-flung rural areas are constantly struggling to find a decent and stable internet connection. Worse, there are still areas in the Philippines that only have access to a 2G connection, with the internet connection itself and even electricity.
This division in hyper-focusing urban areas while leaving the rural majority will not only result in unequal progress of development of internet connectivity in the Philippines but will also cause the larger chunk of the Philippines to not be able to reap the other related benefits of having an internet connection. Among these are digitalization, digital payment, e-commerce, etc.
The Philippine Digital Justice Initiative strongly stresses that until the Filipino masses have not harnessed the fundamental rights of being able to avail and access decent internet connection, other benefits that come with it cannot be experienced by everyone and maximized at its best. The call to raise awareness on the current state of internet connection and to campaign for “this to-be fundamental right” in the on-going digitalization of society has never been more fitting especially with the COVID-19 pandemic still looming around the corner for more than a year already.