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NTC set to lift ban on spam
[May 26, 2006]

NTC set to lift ban on spam

(Philippine Daily Inquirer Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)TELECOMMUNICATIONS REGULATORS MAY lift the moratorium on commercial text messages being broadcast over cellular phone networks by next month after it managed to iron out the most contentious issues with mobile phone firms and their content providers.

In an interview, National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) chief Ronald O. Solis said a finalized memorandum circular governing the use of so-called text spam may be released as early as next week.

We will lift [the ban] once we issue the revised circular, he said, adding that he did not want any further delays that would affect legitimate commerce in the sector.

Solis explained that the new rules would distribute the burden of regulating text spam equally between mobile phone firms and their external content providers to eliminate finger-pointing between the two groups.

We are pressuring them both to comply, he said.

Mounting complaints

To date, the NTC has received close to a thousand complaints from the public because of the text spam.

Many complainants claim that they are billed for receiving unsolicited text messages and commercial broadcasts, while some complain of the inconvenience of receiving these messages, many of which are sent late at night.

When confronted with these issues by regulators, telecommunications firms often point to their third-party content providers as the culprits behind the violations.

Under the new rules, Solis said that content providers found violating the text spam guidelines may be blacklisted or suspended by regulators.

At worst, they will be permanently barred from doing business within the telecommunications system in the future.

Telecommunications firms, on the other hand, will be penalized, the NTC chief said, although he added that the proposed penalty structure is still being finalized.

The remaining issue that needs to be ironed out is the hotline number which the NTC will set up jointly with the telecommunications firms to receive complaints from the public.

Universal number

On top of being a complaints hotline, the universal phone number will also be made available to members of the public who may want to verify the veracity of suspected text scams sent to them via their mobile phones.

Users will pay a small fee to access to the hotline number and the revenues from this operation will be shared proportionally between the regulator and the telecommunications firms.

Solis said that the fee is not meant to help the NTC make money but only to cover the administrative expenses of running a hotline operation.

Despite the fact that kinks in the hotline system have yet to be ironed out, Solis said he plans to release the revised rules by next week.

I dont want this to be delayed only because of the hotline issue, he said. We can provide a temporary hotline for complaints.

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