In the conclusion of our web series “The Day the Philippines Hooked Up to the Net,” we take a look at some of the immediate effects of the events of March 29, 1994. After the success of the first connection, Philnet paved the way for wiring up both the universities and the private sector (through the first commercial ISP, MosCom – which was connected to Philnet), allowing more Filipinos to access the Internet.
This had a ripple effect, accelerating the rate of knowledge of networks, and the legacy is today’s local online and Internet scene, where Internet Service Providers (now largely dominated by telecommunications firms) vigorously compete to provide Filipinos Internet access. Filipino society itself has been irreversibly altered by the exposure to online communications.
By 2011, Filipinos became the world’s leading practitioners of social media. All these were set in motion by the effects of that day in March 1994.
This article is adapted from a piece originally published in March 2001.
When the Philnet technical committee went back home after the conference, there was an immediate flurry of activity. At the Ateneo de Manila, Linux enthusiast Dr. Pablo Manalastas began doing what he had been waiting for weeks. He proceeded to download an entire Linux distribution from Finland. With very little activity on the new network, this went by pretty fast.
Others were swamped with requests for information. “I was answering something like 15 calls an hour from all over,” recalled Kelsey Hartigan Go at DLSU. “Trying to explain what the Internet is, what you need to connect, why it was expensive, from people who didn’t know a moonier from a keyboard, t techies who think they know everything but had to ask anyway. That went on for a few months.”
“I also had to answer a lot of e-mail queries from everywhere,” he added. “Such as what’s the plan for Philnet, when will it reach Tugeugerao, or Davao, how to connect this school and that… how to bring Usenet and STACnet to the rest of the Philnet community. Everybody was ecstatic, and they wanted so many things.”
It was a more innocent time, before the commercialization of the Internet as we know it today. And there was a drive to share a special kind of knowledge with everyone.
Bombim Cadiz mused about that period. “I do get nostalgic about the camaraderie when by everyone who was involved in the Internet evangelization and the pioneering spirit. Most of all, I just find it satisfying that PHNET was able to get the Internet into the Philippines and find all the difficulties worth it.”
Richie Lozada summed it up. “It was a pretty exciting time to be in.”
Immediately after the Cebu Email conference, I wrote my own summary of the event and posted it on the Usenet group soc.culture.filipino.
It’s interesting that one early concern discussed was the possibility of online pornography:
A participant expressed concern about the possibility of obscene material coming into the Philippines from the Internet and being accessed by minors. Others expressed concern that heavy users of the Net would be benefitting tremendously from the fixed charges and wasting bandwidth at the expense of light users.
The Philnet panel took a common stand that it has no business policing the content of the data. As some participants said, once you start
censoring content, the next step could be censoring political messages as well. Philnet does intend to monitor however the volume of data traffic passing through the nodes, and primary nodes that exceed the upper limits will be charged accordingly.