House passes bill creating ‘Online Network Establishment’ in PH

The House of Representatives unanimously approved on third and final reading House Bill 3437, which seeks to provide for an “Online Network Establishment (ONE)” policy for the country.

Principally authored by deputy speaker Rose Marie “Baby” Arenas, HB 3437 or the “ONE Philippines Act” aims to minimize the so-called digital divide as well as speed up the setting up of a wireless communications technology in the country.

The proposed law seeks to create ICT Centers (ICTCs), or ICT Hubs, in every legislative district in the country with the view of enhancing the access of every Filipino to information.

With an ICT Hub, Arenas said a province will be able to harness its potential to make it investor-friendly and accessible. It can also electronically promote the province’s nerve center to connect to the various agencies of the national government thereby pushing the growth of e-government locally and nationally.

“The Philippines has 81 provinces, and once this bill becomes a law, at least 81 nodes can be established to pump prime economic activities and promote development in every province,” said Arenas.

Arenas stressed that the ICT Hub can also link a province to the national government during times of national calamities and disasters. More particularly, with the ICT Hub, the archipelagic feature of the country can be bridges, thereby creating One Philippines, she said.

The bill mandates the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), consistent with the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) and in coordination with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), to formulate and approve a national ICT Plan for the development of an information superhighway that will accelerate the establishment of ICTC or ICT Hub in every legislative district and barangay.

The DICT shall likewise be the lead agency to oversee the implementation of the National ICT plan that shall be submitted annually to the Office of the President.

A joint congressional oversight committee shall be created composed of the Chairpersons of the House Committee on Information and Communications Technology and Senate Committee on Science and Technology, with two members from each of the Senate and the House who shall be designated by the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, respectively.

An Advisory Committee, to be convened by the DICT, shall solicit inputs for the policy, direction, coordination and supervision of ICT Hubs or ICTCs in the country.

The composition of the Advisory committee shall be determined by DICT which shall include equal representation from the government, service providers and end-users.

The DICT shall identify the area where ICT Hubs or ICTCs shall be established. The private sector shall be encouraged to establish the ICT Hub or ICTCs in accordance with the standards set by the DICT. Likewise, the DICT shall come up with a scheme to address the non-viable areas using the latest and emerging technologies available.

Any locator enterprise or telco in the ICT Hub or ICTC may be granted incentives provided under existing laws. All ICT Hubs or ICTCs will be declared free zones within which any public telecommunications entity may operate.

The NTC, in the exercise of its quasi-judicial authority, shall impose a fine of P300,000 for any of the following acts: non-disclosure, non-interconnection or non-compliance with the committed information rate and quality of service. — Eddie Galvez

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