Urging Internet Cafés To Form Associations
The Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), the national government’s highest executive body which can be said to have a direct say in formulating policies and procedures that can directly affect the Internet café industry in the Philippines, is urging the i-café owners to form associations so that improvement in the number of subscribers and quality of service can be effectively measured. CICT Chairman Ray Anthony Roxas-Chua III said in a press release that the agency finds it hard to measure Internet service and reach in terms of subscriptions. He said that it is difficult for one to decide and get an Internet subscription at home because there are plenty of Internet cafés where he could get the service at affordable rate.
The urge to form an Internet Café Associations (ICAs) is actually not new. Way back in 2005 when some government agencies like the Pilipinas Anti-Piracy Team (PAPT), Optical Media Board (OMB) and some police authorities in cooperation with the Business Software Alliance conducted serious anti-software piracy campaigns, ICAs were formed in the different parts of the country as if it was the way to avoid getting raided by the authorities. Later, when i-cafe service prices reach as low as Five (PhP5.00/hr.) Pesos per hour, ICAs continue to get organized with the aim of establishing control on the rent charges and prices of other services that an i-café offers to the public.
Needless to say, the ICAs failed in their missions I stated above. They soon realized that compliance to software licensing is the only way to have peace of mind against the threat of getting raided by PAPT et al. On the issue of price control, ICAs even resorted to having a provision in their local ordinances even if such cartel is against the constitutionally mandated policy of free enterprises for businesses. One by one, ICAs formed in 2005 unwarrantly folded mainly due to the wrong reasons for which they were organized.
There are also some circa 2005 ICAs that survived and together with the ones formed later, they now form the core that continue to strive for a better Internet café industry. These ICAs continue to to lobby and work with some local government units who care to listen to an important industry that can effectively bridge the digital divide if given the chance under a fair and reasonable business atmosphere.