With almost everyone’s eyes stuck on a smartphone, or a mobile screen, it is not surprising that almost half, or 43.5 percent, of Filipinos are internet users – which means they have access to the internet at home, using any device.
Since 2000, internet penetration in the Philippines has consistently gone up. In 2016, the Philippines ranked 15th among countries with the most internet users and is among the four countries worldwide where social networking online captures more than 3 hours of people’s time per day. All these, despite being on the bottom rung when it comes to internet speed.
Online as information source – used but also questioned
While Filipinos do not necessarily spend much time online to get news, they still name the internet as relevant source of information after TV and radio – before print. Their trust in political news online is, however, limited: hardly one out of 10 finds information about the government trustworthy, according to the EON Trust Index survey.
Popular news websites: the usual suspects
Audience data was only available in unique visitors but not as audience share. The most popular websites, according to Effective Measure and Alexa all belong to companies that also publish other media outlets (ABS-CBN, GMA Network, Inquirer, etc.), which strengthens their cross-media presence.
Audience outside the archipelago: Overseas Filipino Workers
Online consumers are not limited to the archipelago. In fact, 51 percent are from outside the Philippines, mostly from USA and Middle East. With almost 2.4 million Filipinos abroad as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), local websites also reach audiences in different regions such as the Middle East, United States and East Asia, where there is a high concentration of OFWs.
Outside the Philippines, the audience of abs-cbn.com, for example, comes from the United States, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The same goes for the other top news websites in the Philippines.
Market dominance reason for slow internet?
Dominant broadband provider Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, and its prime competitors control much of the Internet Service Provider market and thus the online infrastructure. According to Forbes, this market structure allows them to charge fees higher than elsewhere in Asia despite a relatively poor population. PLDT goes on to charge other providers for traffic through its network as well. Another reason for the limited broadband speed is the lack of internet peering.
The Philippine government does not plan to invest in an alternative broadband infrastructure, as trying to compete with PLDT and Globe would be too costly, according to the National Telecommunications Commission. Instead, it plans to increase traffic in the rural areas through demand subsidies. That means the government will pay for the internet in more remote areas, as an incentive for the leading ISPs to invest further in broadband in rural areas. It is, however, uncertain how this effective strengthening of PLDT and Globe’s market position would lead them to lower their fees in the long run.