DPWH urged to amend right-of-way rules to fast-track cell tower rollout

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In a bid to improve Internet connectivity in the country, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) recently wrote to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), urging the latter to look into the feasibility of amending Department Order (DO) 73, which provides for right-of-way rules and regulations.

The DO currently prohibits “posts and towers of electric cooperatives and major electric power distribution; distribution lines; posts for cable of phones and mobile service providers” along all national roads, which pose difficulties for telecom operators in implementing their roll-out plans for critical backbone and last mile connectivity.

In the letter dated September 21, 2020 to DPWH secretary Mark Villar, the DICT and NTC recalled their joint commitment under the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed during the First Philippine Telecoms Summit in 2017, wherein the agencies agreed to amend or revise DO 73 to institute more conducive right-of-way regulations to accelerate the deployment of ICT infrastructure.

Following the MOA signing, the DPWH held various technical working group (TWG) meetings with representatives from the DICT, NTC, telcos, cable operators as well as other stakeholders.

The proposed amendments to DO 73 are also highlighted as one of the priorities of the recently established Telecommunications Monitoring Group (TMG), an inter-agency body comprised of members from the DICT, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC), Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) and the Office of the Special Assistant to the President (OSAP).

“The indispensable use not just of telecommunications, but also of the Internet and other information services in the new normal, highlights the urgent need for equitable access to affordable, quality and reliable ICT connectivity,” DICT secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II said.

“This will only be possible through the accelerated rollout of ICT networks and infrastructure, so our priority is to develop enabling policies that address the private sectors’ complaints against red tape that serve as a cause of delay in the rollout of infrastructure for both telecommunicatìons as well as information services,” he added.

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