National broadband unlocks socioeconomic potential

The Department of Information and Communications Technology is appealing to Congress for an additional P18 billion for the roll-out of the government’s broadband network through the National Broadband Program, a project initiated by the Arroyo administration but was demonized under the Benigno Aquino III presidency.

During the recent budget hearing by the Senate Committee on Finance, the DICT reiterated the need for a government-owned broadband network to improve Internet quality, coverage and affordability.

Senator Imee Marcos supported the DICT’s call for an additional budget for the NBP, citing other countries’ success in improving Internet services through a national broadband network.

“Until today, the government has not invested in ICT, unlike the other countries in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) where it is nationally and publicly owned. We are entirely reliant on a commercial investment. And then we complain when they fall apart, or they fail us, or they are expensive and raise rates wantonly when they don’t belong to us,” Senator Marcos explained.

“I would like to support some augmentation for the DICT (budget), given that the only jobs available are online. Our entire educational system is reliant on the online capacities, and even the senate is depending only upon our Internet,” Senator Marcos added

National Telecommunications Commission Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba reiterated the need for a government-owned broadband network.

“In all other countries, talaga pong gumagastos ang government sa national broadband. Ang nangyayari po sa ibang bansa ay ang gumagastos po at nagpapatayo ng infrastructure at ang gumagastos po ng capital expenditure ay ang government. And all the telcos ay nagle-lease lang po from the national government. That is the model that is being used in other countries kaya po medyo maganda ang service nila. Wala po silang problema sa right of way at wala rin po silang problema sa mga permits because it is the national government that is doing all of that,” Commissioner Cordoba added.

Advances in information and communications technologies, particularly in broadband technologies, have unlocked numerous socioeconomic opportunities for the Philippines. Considered the fourth utility, broadband has provided substantial efficiencies and innovative solutions cutting across several sectors, thereby magnifying the potential to contribute towards inclusive and sustainable growth of the country.

Given broadband’s socioeconomic benefits, I believe that investments in open, pervasive, inclusive, affordable, and trusted information infrastructures or infostructures must be prioritized.

Over the last few decades, the Philippines has steadily caught up with other countries in providing internet access across the nation. According to one study, the country’s internet quality is among the best in the world, with the Philippines ranking 20th and having the fastest year-on-year growth in mobile and broadband speed.

The Arroyo administration signed a contract on 20 April 2007 with the Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE to launch a nationwide broadband network that would have provided fast internet access across the country. But the deal was canceled by her successor, the late president Noynoy Aquino that denied the public free access to communications, particularly during times of crisis.

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