DPWH move to let telcos use gov’t right of way speeds up internet development – NTC

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) decision allowing telecommunication companies to use the government’s right of way (ROW) for three years is a big boost to the development of internet connections throughout the country, according to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

“DPWH’s move was a great stride towards providing Filipinos the much-needed connectivity especially during this pandemic,” NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said in a statement on Wednesday. “This indeed is a welcome development.”

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According to the statement, DPWH Order No 29, series of 2021 — or the DPWH Policy on Telecommunications and Internet Infrastructure Pursuant to the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act — allows a streamlining of procedures to reduce processes for telcos looking to expand their infrastructure.

Processing time would also be reduced while telcos would be charged lesser fees for the necessary permits.

The NTC, DPWH, and the Department of Information and Communications Technology signed a memorandum of agreement as far back as the Philippines Telecoms Summit in 2017 to address the hurdles that came with DPWH DO No. 73, series 2014, on ‘Prohibited Uses within the Right-of-Way of National Road’, Cordoba said.

Under the DPWH order, telco companies can expand faster in three years under Republic Act No. 11494 — An Act Providing for COVID-19 Response and Recovery Intervention and Mechanisms to Accelerate the Recovery and Bolster the Resiliency of the Philippines Economy, Providing Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes.

This would in turn push the administration’s aspirations to strengthen the country’s internet infrastructure especially as the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to rely heavily on online and contactless services.

Internet speeds in the Philippines have steadily improved after a slowdown during the first few months of the COVID-19 lockdown last year, with global internet speed monitoring group Ookla Speedtest saying that speeds returned to pre-pandemic ratings in late 2020.

Another factor in the quicker internet speeds, according to NTC, was the warning issued by President Rodrigo Duterte to telecommunication companies.

During his penultimate State of the Nation Address in 2020, Duterte said that local telco players might face expropriation if the internet connectivity and signal reception would not improve before 2020 ends.

Duterte made the warning as schools and a lot of industries have shifted to online platforms to minimize exposure to COVID-19.

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