National broadband rollout ‘slows down’

The government’s plan to roll out a national broadband network to connect rural communities and the various islands across the country by creating a single digital backbone to fire up faster Internet services has been pushed back because of civil works roadblocks.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said the National Broadband Plan (NBP) across 12 provinces is not yet live.

“The dark fiber is not live yet. The one in Baler, Aurora, has landed, but the Luzon bypass going to Puroc Point, La Union, still has connectivity issues. There is an issue of civil work there, I think about two kilometers, and that needs to be fixed before it can go live,” DICT secretary Ivan John Uy told reporters in a spot interview on Wednesday.

“The first phase from Laoag down to Quezon City needs to be fixed under a contract with BCDA (Bases Conversion and Development Authority). The BCDA is now chasing the contractor, but once that is settled, we will connect the dark fiber to the national grid to light up that backbone from North to South,” he said.

The government partnered with Facebook, now Meta, in 2017 to create a cable landing system that would improve the country’s internet capacity by up to two terabits per second, which will be beneficial particularly to geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDA).

Under the partnership, Facebook will construct and operate a cable system that will land in the cable stations in Baler, Aurora, and Poro Point in San Fernando, La Union.

The BCDA, on the other hand, will build the Luzon Bypass Infrastructure, a two-cable landing station connected by a 250-kilometer cable network – that will host the cable systems.

During a Laging Handa briefing on Thursday, DICT assistant secretary Anna Mae Lamentillo said: “We expect the Luzon Bypass Infrastructure will be online by next year.”

She said the project will “increase government internet capacity by 50 times.”

In his first State of the Nation Address, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. tasked DICT to deploy digital connectivity across various islands in the country.

“This will be done through the implementation of the NBP, the common tower program, connecting our GIDA via our ‘Broad Band ng Masa’ project,” he said.

“All relevant modes of digital transport should be utilized, and these may be through a combination of terrestrial or submarine fiber optics, wireless and even satellite technology,” he added.

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