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Broader, faster internet to boost regional economies




SATELLITE-based broadband can be quickly and easily deployed because it does not rely on wire-based systems. (Photo: Ditel)

A broader use of the satellite technology for faster internet, especially in the countryside, will support a stronger Philippine digital economy and boost distant learning program.

Through House Bill 7081, titled Satellite-Based Technologies Promotion Act of 2020, filed by Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, there will be amendment to restrictions on the use of satellite technology, currently limited to telecommunications companies only.

“COVID-19 has made internet connectivity almost an essential part of the country’s economic continuity and recovery strategy,” said Salceda.

“Without internet connectivity, the country’s work-from-home programs would fall flat. Even with internet connection, however, the country’s slow internet speeds and expensive costs are making work-from-home and distant-learning strategies difficult and costly to execute.”

HB 7081 points out that “in a country where enrollment is far from universal in many areas, despite public education being entirely free, the costs associated with connecting to the internet are an added burden to already-struggling families and can further dissuade students from enrolling during the COVID-19, crisis.”

Although a vaccine will probably come before the country is able to develop satellite-based systems that could be rolled-out in schools and homes, Salceda said the COVID-19 pandemic has served as something of a stress test for the country’s internet connectivity and how the lack of it will impact economic and developmental outcomes.

“We urgently need improvements in internet connectivity if we are to compete in a more digital world economy,” the bill stated.

Under Salceda’s bill, the Department of Information and Communication Technology is mandated to be the agency in-charge of regulating the use of satellite-based technologies outside commercial telecommunications.

DICT’s broadened mandate seeks “to ensure that satellite-based systems are viewed from a lens broader than the understandably telco-centric view of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).”

Salceda stressed “internet connectivity is now a developmental need, so DICT’s bigger-picture view is important.”

The bill also allows Internet service providers and value-added services providers to build and operate their own networks using satellite technology. This will broaden competition among ISPs and eventually lower costs and improve benefits for consumers.

The measure also encourages government organizations, public and non-profit private educational institutions, volunteer organizations engaged in education, environmental management, climate change management, disaster preparedness and crisis response to own and operate satellite-based technology to aid and augment their activities.

“This will democratize internet access, and allow it to be used more broadly for civic causes, especially education,” said Salceda.

“Satellite-based broadband as one of the country’s modes for making Internet access more inclusive and more diffused is an alternative that can be quickly and easily deployed. Because they do not rely on wire-based systems, satellite-based internet can service rural areas and even the most far-flung islands the country.”

Salceda said satellite-based learning is also an alternative mode of distance learning that should be studied.

“Satellite-based internet is also becoming more capable of delivering bandwidth similar to that of traditional, fiber-based systems. The specific requirements for connecting to satellite is ideal for public schools and community centers in remote or rural areas,” he said.

Salceda has been pushing for a digital-ready economy, as part of the tax panel’s efforts for long-term and sustainable economic growth, amid the economic fallout from COVID-19.

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