Classifying I-Cafés By Business Model

There is a city in Metro-Manila where a local ordinance regulating the registration and operation of i-cafés provides for the classification of computer shops in the area according to the business model (services) that they offer. I was lucky to be a participant in crafting the ordinance because I was the head of the city’s internet café association at that time. I shall discuss this topic now and its relevance in regulating the entry of students of minor age into i-cafés during school hours.

According to Section 4 of City Ordinance No. 044, Series of 2006, the i-cafes in Marikina City will have to be classified as follows before they could be issued a business permit:

1) Category “A” – Internet access only, no gaming

2) Category “B” – Internet access plus gaming

3) Category “C” – Gaming only

The duly-accredited ICAs (Internet Café Associations) in the city are tasked with classifying their member i-cafés and hence all computer shops in the area must accredit first with a city-recognized ICA before they can have their business permits processed.

The classification was intended to control the entry of students of minor age to i-cafés during school hours. The ordinance provides that these students are not allowed to enter any category of i-café during their respective class hours (with emphasis on class hours as against school hours). However, during their off-class hours, they are allowed to enter and rent computers in any i-café provided that they no longer wear their school uniforms.

The only exemption in the “no school uniform” rule are the Categoy “A” i-cafés. The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the ordinance says students during their off-class hours can rent computer in Category “A” i-cafés even if they are wearing their school uniforms.

The rule, however, became confusing in the case of Category “B” i-cafes who also offer internet access services (web browsing, emailing, chatting, etc.). Are they also allowed to accept students in uniform during their off-class hours?

In the round-table discussions with the education sector and city officials, the ICA agreed to waive the right of Category “A” and “B” cafés to accept students in school uniforms and hence, only students not wearing school uniforms during their off-class hours are allowed inside i-cafés in the city. By the way, the ICA and its members are provided with the class schedules by the school authorities so they can check the students class hours when they enter their i-cafés.

Until after a better way of classifying and regulating entry of truant students to i-cafés with gaming services are established, the issue of whether or not to allow students of minor age to enter i-cafés during school hours (normally 7:00AM to 6:00PM, Monday to Friday) will persist. I will try to present some personal views on the issue in my future articles. Your comments on the issue are welcome now.

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