They call it the BASS Project » Manila Bulletin Technology

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By Jonathan Castillo

The colored circles represent the number of measurements by BASS users. Blue represents a small cluster of measurements while red indicates a larger cluster. Pink has the highest cluster of measurements. Yellow has measurements done with Wi-Fi and not with a carrier. When zoomed into a cluster: Bandwidth, signal strength, connection type, and telco are revealed. Higher bandwidth means faster internet. The best signal strength, according to Wilson Chua, is -40 and the worst is -200.

Internet in the Philippines has come a long way since it arrived in 1994. It continues to develop, reaching out to millions of Filipinos in the country and with almost everyone armed with a smartphone, they now have the power to voice out their concerns to telcos.

We’re not talking about contacting customer service. We’re talking about BASS, a tool developed by volunteers all over the country that allows you to measure internet speed in your area and the results will be shown in public, alerting telcos which area in the country that needs readjusting of bandwidth.

“There is a strong undercurrent of dissatisfaction in our internet bandwidth,” Wilson Chua said, Managing Director of Future Gen, Singapore, and Manila Bulletin Tech Columnist. “Instead of rising against them, we can become partners for the development and progress. And that’s where the idea to measure the internet came from.”

According to Chua, before the project, no one knew about the true mobile internet signal or pattern in the country. “Not even PLDT or Globe,” he said.

“BASS project is our effort at creating a unified map of the mobile internet for the entire country,” Chua said. “This is a community, crowd-based system, where the internet is measured by netizens, who are invested, or passionate, in what they’re doing will help Philippine internet.”

How does measuring internet deliver on a better internet experience? Chua stated the “Hawthorne” effect, where people’s behaviors change while knowing they are being watched.

Chua expressed his theory why Philippine internet was at its current state. First of all, there are only two competing telcos in the country. The second, Chua mentioned it as a “theory” is that, “If you’re the big boss of the telco, it’s not to your benefit if your service is bad in the field. Of course, better service, means better market share. My theory is, the heads are not aware of the scenarios on the field, and that services are mishandled by linemen, field personnel, because they’re outsourced.

“So, now that you measure in real time, making it public,” Chua said, “and the telco bosses see those measurements, what do you think will happen?”

The cost of 10mbps internet speed in Philippines is approximately the same as 1gbps in Singapore, according to Wilson Chua. “That’s 100x more expensive,” he said.

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What is BASS?

BASS stands for “Bandwidth and Signal Statistics.” This is a tool that allows you to monitor bandwidth (internet speed) and signal levels. It is a community-based app where users open the BASS app with either their Android or iOS device and scan the surrounding area for its bandwidth and signal strength.

Because of the articles published by the Manila Bulletin, the team behind BASS believes that telcos are aware of the project and that people will be using the app to double-check if they are getting the bandwidth promised to them. The results are shown to the public. BASS was launched on March 29.

Meet the team behind BASS

BASS is an independent project, developed by volunteers from all over the country, lending their specialties in IT, to create an app with ambitions that could shape the future of internet in the country.

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Wilson Chua

Finished Magna Cum Laude in UP Diliman, batch ’79, and completed his Masters in IT Program Management, in the National University of Singapore. He has also secured the Systems Engineer with Internet Specialization certificate from Microsoft, and among other qualifications, Wilson Chua set out on a journey to contribute in the development of Philippine internet. He is Managing Director of Future Gen International at Singapore, a company that he founded. He is also Managing Director and co-founder of BSN Inc, in Dagupan, which is centered on new technologies like virtualization and unified storage systems.

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Paul Sydney Orozco

When Chua called volunteers for the BASS project, the first one who answered was Paul Sydney Orozco.

“It so happened that he has already developed that kind of program that we needed,” Chua said and pointed out that it is on Github, a code sharing and publishing service, social network for programmers, and a hub that manages and stores revisions of projects.

“So, just a few more modifications and the program was ready to go!” Chua said. “It was Paul’s code that served as the base module, which the rest of the volunteers worked on.”

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Melbourne Baldove

Melbourne “Melby” Baldove is a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, graduating this year. He learned about the BASS project when he signed up for an internship in Wilson Chua’s company, the Bitstop Network Services, in Dagupan City, and to be involved in something this big, in excitement he said was “overwhelming.”

He is involved in the development of the Android app version of BASS, contributing technical knowledge to the team, and co-manages the BASS Facebook page.

“This project means a lot to me,” Baldove said. “First of all, I was the one who coined the name ‘BASS.’ I love music with a lot of bass, that’s why. It’s the part of the music that makes it dynamic and whole. It is ‘bayanihan’ for better internet in Philippines. I know people are fed up with poor internet in, but I never knew that people would actually volunteer and stand with us.”

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Olay Rullan

Olay Rullan is an IT Business Unit Leader on System Integrations and Standardization. Her background focuses on finance and tech and has worked with major companies such as PwC, Nestle, and Microsoft, among others. She owns her own IT Management and Consulting firm, founder of a local startup, and consulted for a fintech startup.

“BASS means to empower the mobile data subscribers in the country,” Rullan said. “It is a tool that supports the demand for better services from the telcos.”

She learned about BASS on Chua’s feed and told him that she would try to pitch in, look for holes, provide feedback to better present premise to stakeholders, which are the mobile data subscribers, telcos, and governing authority.

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Andrew Alegre

Andrew Alegre freelanced on software and game development for years. He is currently country manager for a foreign 3D tech company and is responsible for developing the iOS version of the BASS app.

“BASS is a take from the consumers’ side of things,” Alegre said, “not as an antagonistic voice, but hopefully a complementary one that would aid either the government agencies and the telcos with more actionable data. I remember having at least 50mbps free Wi-Fi inside Bangkok airport a few years back,” he said.

More than bandwidth, Alegre believes the “bigger elephant in the room” is the quality of internet connection. “How often does your internet connection fail?” He said. “It’s not that we don’t have enough bandwidth, it’s that the bandwidth provided to most end-users is so slow and that internet connection is intermittent and a lot of times non-existent, also to the detriment of businesses that rely on internet connectivity.”

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Fleire Castro

Fleire Castro is a digital marketing consultant and proprietor of Third Team Media, a social media and digital agency based in Cebu. She is an advocate of women entrepreneurship and tech for social good.

“Project BASS, knowing that it is an alternative to ranting online about telcos and our slow internet, has become a representation of my personal frustration with our internet quality and our lack of options here in the PH.”

Castro worked with lead developer Paul Sydney and Melby in setting up the project and drafted terms and private policies. She was involved in app testing and produced online marketing collaterals through social media.

“Our challenge now is to have the 60 million Filipinos to actually use it,” she said. “On their devices and help contribute to the data that will not just help telcos but help other decision makers in the country make the best decisions.”

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Tzar Umang

Tzar Umang has years of IT background. He was the Chief ICT Officer at DOST Smarter Philippines Project Management Office in Bicutan, was the Director of IT in Highly Innovative and Valuable Evolution (HIVE) Inc., and was the Chief Technology Officer in Movie Club Systems Inc—the company behind Movie Club Application that are pre-installed in Cherry Mobile smartphones. He is currently the president of a family business, now called “Tzar Enterprises” a 30-year-old enterprise in Mapandan, Pangasinan, which focuses on Healthcare, agriculture, food, magnetic water, and IT integration for healthcare.

“I saw the value of the project, considering that for how many years even with my past businesses it became challenging for us to deliver the services we promised to our clients.”

Umang provided ideas on the development of BASS, testing the application, and looking into how to improve it and help the development team on a technical aspect. He continues to search for more volunteers, getting into schools and contacting former colleagues: DOST, ICTO, DICT.

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A-Ar Concepcion

A-Ar Andrew Concepcion is an Android developer and was invited by Melby to help with the BASS project. He agreed to participate because he saw it as a serious effort to improve the quality of internet service in Philippines. While not working on BASS, he and his paretner are working on developing a sports-related app.

His involvement in BASS consists of improving overall stability and architecture of the app, providing suggestions, fixing bugs, and introduction of added features.

“The group consists of very passionate people who who genuinely wants to raise the bar of our country’s communications and internet infrastructure,” Concepcion said. “The BASS Project has a long way to go. I hope the people support more efforts like, because ultimately everyone will benefit from this.”

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Arturo Samaniego Jr.

Arturo Samaniego Jr. is the TechNews Editor of Manila Bulletin since the department’s inception in 2007. Prior becoming an editor, he has managed the IT development and infrastructure of the company.

“I have worked with Wilson Chua for a long time,” Samaniego said. “He approached me and presented BASS and I saw its potential to change the Philippine internet scene.”

Samaniego provides additional tech input for the development of BASS and publicizing about the project to spread awareness.

Care to lend a hand?

BASS can be downloaded in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. The BASS team encourages more people to use it and help improve Philippine internet.

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