Internet in the Philippines: 20 Years Online

This is somewhat of an off-topic entry, but today is a momentous occasion, not only for me but for all of us who are reading this or some other website, connecting to people via email or social media, posting or reacting to memes and other viral messages or posts, streaming or uploading online media, among many, many others we have been doing in cyberspace for the past 20 years.

It should be, because on this day 20 years ago, the Philippines went online, making that historic entry in the young but growing Internet landscape thanks to the efforts of the Philnet project, which was a collaboration of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the academic community.

20 years ago…

The exact moment happened at 1:15 AM, March 29, 1994 when Benjie Tan, who was working for ComNet, a company that supplied Cisco routers to the Philnet project, established the Philippine’s first connection to the Internet at the PLDT network center in Makati City via the US-based ISP Sprint.

Benjie Tan (courtesy of Interaksyon)

He then posted a short message to the Usenet newsgroup soc.culture.filipino to alert Filipinos overseas that a link had been made. It read:

“As of March 29,1994 at 1:15 am Philippine time, unfortunately 2 days late due to slight technical difficulties, the Philippines was FINALLY connected to the Internet via SprintLink. The Philippine router, a Cisco 7000 router was attached via the services of PLDT and Sprint communications to SprintLink’s router at Stockton Ca. The gateway to the world for the Philippines will be via NASA Ames Research Center. For now, a 64K serial link is the information highway to the rest of the Internet world.”

Benjie then contacted Cebu, where some of the Philnet folks are for a conference called “The 1st International Email Conference” being held at the University of San Carlos. With everything good to go, on 10:18 AM, Dr. John Brule, Professor Emeritus in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Syracuse University, announced to the attendees the words that long awaited message.

“We’re in,” Dr. Brule announced to the applause and cheer of many in that hall that day.

Where to from here?

In a span of 20 years, the internet’s growth as far as acceptability and usage in the country is something beyond imagination as more and more Filipinos are going online. The same cannot be said however yet of the infrastructure and accessibility. The current infrastructure has yet to meet the demands of a growing online country. Reliability is also an issue as many have been complaining at the subpar service internet providers have been giving vis-a-vis the high rates they charge compared to neighboring countries.

At this rate, internet connection in the country will continue to grow; it is imperative that the aforementioned challenges must be met if the Philippines aims to become a truly wired country ready to face the changes ahead in the online landscape.

For the meantime, happy 20th birthday, Philippine internet!

Acknowledgements as well to Yahoo Philippines and Jim Ayson (do read that Jim Ayson article for more inside stuff behind the birth of Philippine Internet)

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