Tuesday, March 5, 2024

IRR for EO on satellite Internet access cited for ‘good provisions’

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and an independent ICT policy researcher have welcomed the issuance of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for Executive Order 127 which lays down the national policy on inclusive access to satellite-based Internet.

The IRR, which the Department on Information and Communications Technology (DICT) issued last Sept. 28, will expand the provision of Internet service through satellite services and will promote financial inclusion and digital finance in the country, according to the BSP.

The central bank said banks, fintech companies, and other financial sector entities will now be guided in exploring ways of tapping into satellite technology for their operations, particularly toward expanding presence in underserved communities.

“With enhanced countryside connectivity, we see previously unserved and underserved areas being reached by digital financial services, especially those designed for the lower income segments, like remittances, bills payments and the opening of transaction accounts,” BSP governor Benjamin E. Diokno said in a statement.

ICT policy researcher Grace Mirandilla-Santos, on the other hand, said the IRR is a well-crafted piece of document, even defining terms like “broadband,” “network,” “underserved areas,” and “unserved areas” that have not been defined properly in any other existing policy.

The National Telecommunications Commission has previously defined broadband as having a “data connection speed of at least 256 kbps” – a definition that has been ridiculed by local ICT observers.  

“I’m happy that the IRR has come out and contains some very good provisions. It recognizes the Internet as an ‘information service,” said Mirandilla-Santos.

“This means, there are many different kinds of networks that can carry Internet and ICT policy advocates are glad that the rules express openness to new and emerging technologies that are not necessarily telco-dependent. This also recognizes that there are more stakeholders in the broadband industry than just the telcos,” she pointed out.

Mirandilla-Santos also noted that the rules clearly differentiate between “broadband facilities” and “telco networks.”

“While a telco network can be used to offer Internet connectivity, the IRR point to other types of networks, such as cable television networks, TV broadcast networks, and electric power transmission and distribution networks, which can also be used to offer broadband services,” she observed.

The ICT researcher noted that the EO promotes inclusive access to broadband facilities, especially in GIDAs (geographically isolated and/or disadvantaged areas). “This will ensure that even the remote rural areas have an option on connectivity,” she said.

Mirandilla-Santos said among the key reforms included the IRR are:

  • Section 4 on encouraging the propagation, deployment, and use of modern satellite technologies where the government sees access to satellites “as part of the plethora of transmission mediums for the expansion of internet services” in the country. Reiterating the State’s policy of “fostering an ICT sector policy environment that promotes a broad market-led development of the ICT and ICT-enabled services sector, a level playing field, and partnership between the public and private sector, as provided in RA 10844. This highlights that EO 127 is in line with the overarching approach of the government — of easing market entry in order to promote and propagate Internet connectivity in the country.
  • Section 6 encourages investing, owning, operating or utilizing new and next generation satellite technologies including in-country satellite earth complexes or teleports. This means incentivizing the use of locally based satellite infrastructure.
  • Section 12 clarifies that Internet is an “information service” that is separate and distinct from telecommunications service and network. Under RA 7925, telecommunications networks are categorized as “local exchange operator,” “inter-exchange carrier,” or “international carrier.” Internet does not fall under any of these categories. As such, any policy and regulation pertaining to the provisioning of broadband internet and internet access should be guided by the departmental policy that “Internet is an information service.”

Overall, Mirandilla-Santos said the EO is a significant policy directive as satellite plays an important role in the digital infrastructure ecosystem.

“It’s good that the EO emphasized on market-led solutions for ICT development. It most important benefit is easing market entry for industry players that can offer connectivity options,” she said.


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