This is a post, part of a series, to commemorate the Pope’s visit to the Philippines on January 15-19 2015.
Smart Communications (TEL:PM latest stock quote) and Globe Telecom (GLO:PM latest stock quote), the two largest telecommunications company in the Philippines, plan to disrupt mobile services during the Pope’s stay in the Philippines from January 15-19 2015.
On the morning of January 16, I personally experienced disruption of my Smart Bro mobile internet. People I know also experienced disruptions with their Smart (and Sun) mobile signals. I didn’t experience any disruptions with my Globe cellular signal during the same time period. By the way, I was located far away from the Papal activities.
According to news reports, the two companies plan to disrupt services based on the directive of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC). The NTC, as its name suggests, is the government agency that oversees telecom companies in the Philippines. The reason given is to secure the Pope, as mobile signals may be used to detonate bombs.
Do you actually think that this action is justified or is the government going overboard? Many people all over the world are very much dependent on mobile communications — and this is not because of the need to do selfies or Facebook updates — many people actually depend on mobile services for their livelihood and daily activities. In the hospital, we communicate with the nursing and physician staff primarily through cellphones. In medical emergencies, you certainly would not want your doctor to be incontactable because of disrupted cellular signals.
If a security threat actually does materialize during the Pope’s visit, mobile communication is the best way by which police and emergency personnel can be called to respond. Disrupted mobile signals will be catastrophic in that scenario.
The ability of the government to order disruption of mobile signals, and the telco’s easy compliance with the order, may set a bad precedent. What if the reason for future disruptions is not public safety, but the curtailment of the freedoms of speech and association? — as what Mubarak allegedly did during the Egyptian uprising.
The same issue was raised in the United States after the Boston Marathon bombing.
If this is the security strategy of the Philippine government in ensuring the Pope’s safety, imagine what the strategy will be when the country hosts more heads of state in the upcoming APEC Summit.
“No Signal” definitely sends the wrong signal to investors.