Monday, July 15, 2024

Infra sharing key to bridging broadband gap in PH: study

A study from the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) has cited the critical role of infrastructure sharing as a cost-effective strategy in an economically constrained environment.

This approach, the report said, allows new market entrants to utilize existing network infrastructure, significantly reducing setup costs and entry barriers.

The study, jointly presented by its authors PIDS research fellows Ramonette Serafica and Kris Francisco, along with research specialist Queen Cel A. Oren, highlighted critical findings, and proposed strategic recommendations aimed at bolstering broadband penetration across the Philippine archipelago.

During a webinar conducted by PIDS in celebration of the National ICT Month, Serafica initiated the dialogue by emphasizing broadband’s paramount importance globally and domestically.

“Universal access to information and communications technology, including the internet, is crucial for fostering inclusive development,” she affirmed, citing international frameworks like the Sustainable Development Goals that underscore the imperative of leaving “no one offline”.

The author also explained that universal access ensures telecommunications services are available to all citizens, focusing on availability, accessibility, and affordability. But while there have been improvements in the Philippines, significant gaps remain with the 2019 National ICT Household Survey revealing that only 17.7 percent of households and 46-47 percent of individuals have internet access.

Efforts are underway to narrow these gaps. Oren recognized the previous government’s initiatives, including the 2017 release of the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s (DICT) National Broadband Plan.

She also outlined additional programs such as the Free Wi-Fi in Public Places Program and the Tech4Ed program.

Furthermore, Oren underscored efforts leveraging emerging technologies like satellite Internet through the Philippine Space Agency’s (PhilSA) availment of SpaceX’s StarLink, and DICT’s Broadband ng Masa Program.

Despite these, it was acknowledged that challenges remain in sustaining these programs, especially in regions with limited resources and geographic disadvantages.

Oren stressed the necessity for collaborative efforts between government, the private sector, and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to facilitate infrastructure sharing, reduce costs, and map nationwide broadband coverage.

Emphasizing the importance of research in understanding user needs, the expansion of demographic profiling in the national ICT household survey was recommended to inform targeted interventions.

“The national ICT household survey should encompass social demographic profiles, including individuals’ employment status, income, and ICT skills, along with household income,” Oren added.

Meanwhile, Francisco elaborated on infrastructure sharing as a pivotal strategy in the Philippines’ pursuit of universal broadband access.

She commended its cost-effectiveness, involving sectors such as telecommunications, electricity, and transportation in sharing physical assets like towers and fiber optic cables.

Francisco underscored the government’s recognition of this strategy within the National Broadband Plan, advocating for refined policies governing interconnection models, fees, dispute resolution, and infrastructure sharing agreements to enhance implementation effectiveness.

“Policy adjustments are needed to align sector priorities for effective regulation,” Francisco emphasized.

Drawing from international best practices, Francisco proposed inclusive and transparent principles for sharing opportunities, ensuring fair pricing, efficient processes, and future-proof infrastructure planning.

These principles, she argued, are crucial for fostering a conducive environment for broadband expansion across the Philippines.

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