Government urged to invest on boosting internet connection


MANILA, Philippines – Concerned stakeholders are urging the government to focus more on boosting the Philippines' investment in broadband connections, noting the growing need for faster and better internet connection among Filipinos.

In a statement on Monday, CitizenWatch Philippines, an advocacy network, said that in 2024, a quarter of the Filipino population will still remain offline despite the advancements in technology and their growing use in daily activities.

The network said that the government must take action regarding this and invest in infrastructure, like the Private Sector Advisory Council's proposal to add around P240 billion in funding to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to help deploy 5G connections faster.

"Broadband investments will enable more Filipinos, wherever they may be in the archipelago, to participate in the digital economy, that would in turn increase their income potential and upgrade their skills," CitizenWatch Philippines said.

"If the Philippines wants to be a significant player in the global economy and boast of a people that is dynamic and technologically adept, the government must take this decisive action soonest. Ultimately, this will redound to the benefit of ordinary Filipinos, who stand to live a productive, efficient, and upwardly mobile life," it added.

Data from the DICT showed that 65% of the country's population is still not connected to the internet. According to the Statista Research Department, an international research company, 77.81% of the Filipino population will only have an internet connection by 2028 in its current phase.

The average broadband internet speed in the Philippines is currently ranked 41st in the world, according to the Telecom Review. This is allegedly still a big problem because the speed is frequently inconsistent and merely limited.

Think tank Stratbase ADR Institute president Dindo Manhit also wants more investments in broadband connections, noting that it is better to invest now rather than later to help adapt to the changing times.

"The transformative potential of broadband infrastructure can be best harnessed by the Philippines' young and digital savvy population, even as all segments of the citizenry stand to benefit from digital transformation," Manhit said.

"Access to fast and reliable broadband services is a fundamental requirement for full and meaningful participation in the digitized global economy. We stand to lose so much in real and potential benefits if we do not address the gaps in the country's digital infrastructure," he added.

Several lawmakers and stakeholders also want to put more emphasis on boosting internet speed in the country through the revision of the National Building Code of 1977 to remove the lease for telecommunication infrastructure, similar to electricity and water. 

Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda is one of the backers of the said measure, noting that the country must adapt to the changing times and rising need for faster and better internet connection. With this, telecommunications networks would have more access and room to establish cell sites and spread their services properly across the country. 

2021 data from the National Telecommunications Commission showed that there are more than 22,000 cell sites in the country, less than a third of Vietnam's 90,000, and they are shared between three telcos.

Former presidential adviser on economic affairs and telco concerns Ramon Jacinto stressed the need for more towers in the country, stressing the need to put up an additional 50,000 cell towers, which costs around $5 billion.

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