DICT Takes ‘Full Responsibility’ for PHL Internet Connectivity Situation


Twitter: @edd1819, Instagram: @bluestar0910, Facebook: SDN — Science, Digital & Current Affairs

By EDD K. USMAN

(SDN) — “FULL responsibility.”

FORMER senator, now Secretary Gregorio “Gringo” B. Honasan II has emphasized this responsibility over the current state of internet connectivity in the Philippines.

Filipinos have been disgusted and complaining over the country’s slow internet speed, but can’t do anything about it.

Obviously, that’s for the national government to address and remedy and make it at least at par with its neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

And that’s exactly Honasan’s message as head of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

Should Filipinos be looking forward to a fast, maybe not as fast as lightning, internet speed connection?

“Of course, we need to aim higher and the country can definitely do better. No excuses; we take full responsibility for the current situation that our telecommunications and Internet connectivity are in,” Honasan assured in a statement the DICT provided to SDN — Science & Digital News.

He was referring to the “improvement” in the country’s internet speed.

The DICT statement noted that a recent Ookla Global Index showed the Philippines gained “significant improvement in internet speed, marking a 216.94 percent increase in fixed broadband speed and a 127.82 percent increase in mobile internet speed from July 2016 to July 2020.”

Aim higher, do better

Based on the Ookla data the Philippines  now has an average of 25.07Mbps and 16.95Mbps for fixed broadband and mobile internet, respectively.

Based on online tech reviews, the average internet speed suggested for video conferencing is around 1 to 4 Mbps, while standard definition and high-definition video streaming are around 3 to 4 Mbps and 5 to 8 Mbps, respectively.  Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) requires only 90 to 156 kbps.

This was not lost on the DICT.

“While our mobile internet speed has multiplied in recent years, we can still do more by improving our fiber optic cables and cell tower infrastructure,” Honasan pointed out.

“For practical purposes, one can already surf the internet, use Facebook and YouTube, and make video calls with our current internet speed. From time to time, I use my smart phone to check mobile internet speeds in the areas I go to.”

He said other people are also measuring internet speed. He added that various locations have different internet speed, some with more or less 3 Mbps while others registered more or less 7 Mbps.

“Anyone can try this,” he said in Pilipino.

Of course, we need to aim higher and the country can definitely do better. No excuses.”

Headquarters of the DICT in Quezon City, Metro Manila.
Photo: SDN — Science & Digital News file.

How DICT plans to improve connectivity

Honasan said that the DICT acknowledges the average internet speed improvements in the country in the past four years, based on available data. However, he said that the Philippines’ biggest problem concerning digitalization remains the lack of ICT infrastructure, resulting in poor coverage across the country, leaving many with weak to no connection signal. Thus, Honasan emphasized the need for funding and support for the NBP.

“We should not leave the fate of our national ICT infrastructure to the private sector only. It is high time for a government-owned network that’s built even in remote communities, not based on their market viability, but with a mission to provide equal opportunity for all. We owe it to our people. We owe it to our children,” the DICT supremo said.

The DICT presented to the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives its plans on further improving telecommunications and internet connectivity in the Philippines, particularly the plan for a government-owned national fiber optic network through the National Broadband Program (NBP). This comes after apparent improvements in average internet speeds in the country, according to recent surveys.

Honasan said that the DICT acknowledges the average internet speed improvements in the country in the past four years, based on available data. However, he said that the Philippines’ biggest problem concerning digitalization remains the lack of ICT infrastructure, resulting in poor coverage across the country, leaving many with weak to no connection signal. Thus, Honasan emphasized the need for funding and support for the NBP.

“We should not leave the fate of our national ICT infrastructure to the private sector only. It is high time for a government-owned network that’s built even in remote communities, not based on their market viability, but with a mission to provide equal opportunity for all. We owe it to our people. We owe it to our children,” Honasan said.

DICT needs microwave towers

The DICT proposed budget of around Php18 billion is being planned to cover the Philippines by 2022 under the Program’s Phase 2.

DICT Assistant Secretary Emmanuel Rey Caintic explained that the proposed budget will speed up the lighting up of fiber optic cables of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) and the National Transmission Corporation (TransCo) across the country.

He added that the DICT can simultaneously install active components for fiber optic cables in various provinces and deliver expected results in six to nine months given the requested funding. Part of the Php18 billion will be spent on microwave radio towers which will be deployed in areas with no fiber optic cables.

According to Caintic, Phase 1 of the NBP will be completed in early 2021. Using the 2019-2020 budget, the DICT is set to activate and connect the Cable Landing Station in Baler, Aurora, to the NGCP node in San Fernando, La Union through the Luzon Bypass Infrastructure. Four DICT nodes and 15 NGCP nodes will also be activated.

“Maliit yung NBP Phase 1 in terms of geography, pero ang kagandahan, abot mula Baler hanggang La Union, paikot ng Tarlac, Pangasinan, La Trinidad, Baguio, Region 2 and 3, hanggang NCR,” he explained.

The DICT is currently in talks with eight provinces regarding the establishment of provincial broadband networks that will be linked to the fiber optic cables from the National Broadband Phase 1 implementation.

In perspective, neighboring countries with similar initiatives, such as Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand, have allotted significantly higher budgets for their National Broadband Network. Indonesia is reported to have allocated over US$22 billion (Php1.07 trillion) for its five-year national broadband plan, while Australia and New Zealand have allocated around US$37 billion (Php1.79 trillion), and US$1.19 billion (Php58 billion pesos), respectively.

Other countries, such as Singapore, are improving their systems by spending around US$550 million (Pjp26.72 billion) and opening up their network to all service providers. While the approved budget for NBP Phase 2 is around Php902 million, approximately P17 billion more is required to build a fiber optic network that would encompass the entire country.

The NBP is part of DICT’s Connect-Connect-Connect initiative, which aims to improve telecommunications and internet services in the country. (SDN/DICT) (✓)

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