What Is An Internet Service Provider?

The subject of this blog is at present very important to the internet café industry in the Philippines. The reason is Republic Act No. 9775 (Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009) where an Internet Service Provider (ISP) has many responsibilities in the implementation of the law. I had a previous blog enumerating such responsibilities of an ISP and I also mentioned there the possibility that the authors of the Act had the i-cafés in mind as among the ISPs. This issue came out in the regional consultations made during the drafting of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of RA 9775. In one regional consultation that I attended, the government agency tasked by the law to prepare the IRR concerning the responsibilities of ISPs was not present so it was not clarified if i-cafés are classified as ISPs.

For us to understand and be clarified, let me enumerate the different definitions of an ISP that can be found in the web together with their reference sites. I want to cite first the definition of an internet service provider as stated in RA 9775 and where the authors got the definition. According to Section 3 (g) of the law,  “Internet service provider (ISP)” refers to a person or entity that supplies or proposes to supply, an internet carriage service to the public., a definition which our research showed to have its origin in Australia’s Telecommunications 1997 (C’th). A thorough discussion on Australian definition can be found at Are you an ISP? article published in the website of Internet society of Australia.

In the more widely-used Wikipedia it says that an Internet service provider, also sometimes referred to as an Internet access provider (IAP), is a company that offers its customers access to the Internet. Admittedly, an i-café offers its customers access to the internet but the question remains if it is an ISP. There was a contention made that the words “also sometimes referred to” in this definition exempts the i-cafés from being an ISP per se.

Another definition of ISP and a more comprehensive one can be found at the website of DTI (Department of Trade and Industry), a co-equal department of DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) which is tasked by the Act to spearhead the preparation of its IRR. The definition by DTI says  that an Internet Service Provider (ISP) is a company that provides Internet access to other companies or individuals. Further, an ISP maintains connections to other networks and ISPs, acting as a router for Internet traffic between a customer’s computer and any other machine also connected to the Internet anywhere else in the world. ISPs can provide access to the Internet in many ways. And lastly, most ISPs in the country are into subscription plans and provide good packages for home use and small businesses. This definition if considered in the IRR will definitely exclude the i-cafés among the ISPs in our country.

Again, based on the above definitions, is i-café an internet service provider? I am sincerely hoping that the drafters of the IRR of RA 9775 will consider the DTI definition and formally state in the final document that will guide the implementation of the law.