Telco vital to recovery plan

Richmond Mercurio - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — A consumer advocacy group has called on the government to prioritize the strengthening of telecommunications and digital infrastructure as part of the country’s recovery strategy.

“This should be among the top priorities in the government’s recovery strategy,” CitizenWatch Philippines said in a statement yesterday.

The group said the coronavirus pandemic has sparked a rush toward a digital transformation of society, and demand for fast and reliable internet access and mobile phone services will continue growing exponentially as more people integrate digital tools into their lives.

It said Filipino consumers have been learning fast and embracing technology as the default tool to work and conduct daily transactions.

“We have long been the world’s top social media users and now use e-commerce platforms to order goods online. We hold meetings and virtual get-togethers online; we get our news and entertainment online and we are consulting our doctors online. This fast-growing demand for more bandwidth and higher internet speeds threatens to strain our current telco capacities if capacities are not expanded quickly,” CitizenWatch Philippines convenor Orlando Oxales said.

According to the group, the first step in strengthening telecommunications and digital infrastructure is to demolish the bureaucratic barriers that have been causing construction delays of telco towers for decades.

“This is the time to wield the political will of this government to permanently resolve the frustrating reality of long and circuitous bureaucratic gauntlets that civil works contractors of telco projects must go thru causing months of delays and unnecessary costs before construction can even start,” Oxales said.

The group is asking regulators to audit and rationalize the permitting and certification requirements imposed on all telco projects and ensure that the seven-day limit on permits prescribed in the recently released Department of Information and Communications Technology Circular 8 on Common Tower Policy Guidelines are strictly implemented.

“The government must enable the telco industry to help build a future-proof digital infrastructure network to meet the fast-growing demand of a digitized society linking the ecosystems of government, private industries, and consumers to cloud-based services that are secure, stable, and fast. This fits well with the all-of-society approach to recover from this crisis,” Oxales said.

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