Will The National Broadband Plan Address All Of Our Internet Connection Woes?

President Rodrigo Duterte has finally given the green light to the Department of Information Communications Technology (DICT) to implement the national broadband program. According to Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, the President said he would like the agency “to develop a national broadband plan to accelerate the deployment of fiber optics cables and wireless technologies to improve internet speed.”

“President Rody Duterte has approved the establishment of a National Government Portal and a National Broadband Plan during the 13th Cabinet Meeting in Malacañang today,” wrote Piñol in a Facebook post.

The said update came through after a few months ago, the DICT unveiled its plan to provide a high-speed broadband network that will primarily connect rural areas to the internet.

In addition, the department will implement nationwide internet access to help local government units become more attuned to the technological advancements and make government services more efficient.

Tech-driven services

Before its absorption by the DICT, the Department of Science and Technology’s ICT office submitted an Administrative Order that aimed to create a council that will adopt the Philippine Digital Strategy, the template for the modernization of government services through policies that adopt new technologies to streamline public service.

Among the initiatives thrust by the agency was the Integrated Government, or iGOV, a program that will make government applications such as business permits, licenses, and other services accessible via the internet.

In addition, the migration to Internet Protocol Version 6, the newest communications protocol for internet networks, has also been greatly advocated to avoid speed bumps in the ICT development in the Philippines.

However, the biggest priority of the government in terms of ICT upgrade is the proposal for the national broadband plan. The DICT will need P200 billion to create new infrastructure for government broadband. The project would take around three years to complete.

As part of the Philippine Digital Strategy, the national broadband plan has the aims to solve the following:

  • 80% of barangays to have Internet access through the Community eCenters of at least 2 mbps
  • 100% of high schools and 80% of elementary schools to have internet access
  • 80% of other public institutions have internet access
  • 100% of government offices have internet access
  • All central business districts to have available download speeds of 20 mbps
  • 80% of households to have access to at least 2 mbps of broadband connectivity
  • Average prices for basic broadband Internet to be reduced by at least 5% annually
  • Investment in infrastructure expansion to increase by at least 10% annually

The national broadband plan is expected to be adopted this year through “a multi-stakeholder process.”

Minding the gap

“The country has around 90% penetration in terms of mobile usage. However, most developing countries such as the Philippines are much behind in terms of adoption and use of broadband,” said Engr. Napoleon Casambre, who used to head the ICT office of the DOST.

“The national broadband plan would ensure that an implementable set of strategies and actions, to achieve a set of indicators on Universal Internet access to give everyone the chance to reap the advantages of high speed internet,” he added.

The 2016 State of the Internet Report by internet services company Akamai found out that the country is still an internet backwater in terms of internet speed, according to the Philippine Star.

With an average speed of 4.3 mbps, the Philippines is still lagging behind in terms of speed in the Asia-Pacific region. Globally, our internet speed puts us in the 100th spot as compared to more advance European and American countries.

Aside from the long-term government broadband network, DICT secretary Rodolfo Salalima also made a draft of an executive order that will force local government units to fast-track cell site applications. The move aims to improve the service of telco companies in the country.

“If they fail to act, automatically the permits will be deemed approved. If they did not (approve), they have to put their reasons. And if their reasons are not in accordance with law, I am willing to bring them to the Ombudsman,” Salalima said during the Philippine Telecoms Summit. With the reprimand hung over the head of LGU officials, the process will be reduced significantly from the original eight months and 25 permits needed by the telcos to construct a single cell site.

What do you think of the National Broadband Plan? Share your thoughts in the comments.