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High-Speed Internet for Public Schools in the Philippines

The National Transmission Corporation (Transco) has successfully tested and applied emerging information communication technologies (ICTs) that will use existing power line infrastructures to help the Department of Education (DepEd) implement its Public Education Network programme. It will provide connectivity and high-speed Internet to public schools nationwide amid the pandemic. Transco is owned by the Department of Energy.

The Public Education Network-Communications Infrastructure for Learning (PEN-CIL) project would help the DepEd address the challenges of ensuring the continuity of learning amid the pandemic and the expected transition to the New Normal by providing Internet connectivity in all public schools. According to the Transco President-CEO, Melvin Matibag, the organisation would be involved through its Project Lightning in designing, developing, and operating the PEN-CIL system aiming to make the country’s basic education system more resilient especially in times of calamities and crises.

As per a press release, the Internet system will be jointly developed with electric cooperatives nationwide, who will lend the government their power lines for the high-speed Internet connection. The initiative will prioritise the remote rural areas that are expected to be left out by the telcos due to commercial viability issues.

In a report, Matibag stated that PEN-CIL will be piloted at the Baguio Teachers Camp where all buildings and facilities are not yet connected to the Internet. The PEN-CIL project will maximise the utilisation of Transco and electric cooperatives’ assets. This will translate into new revenues for Transco when it performs the function of administrator and system operator of the DepEd’s PEN-CIL while it is able to support the government’s development objectives. The positive spillover effect of PEN-CIL is that other government agencies can use the national Internet network, and, in turn, help complete the Department of Information and Communication Technologies (DICT) National Broadband Plan.

During a recent Department of Finance (DOF) meeting for state corporations under its supervision, Matibag explained that using new technologies, Transco’s Project Lightning will enable the transfer of large amounts of data at extremely high speeds using existing power lines, without having to install new cell phone towers or laying of fibre optic cables. Under the project, Transco conducted technology scanning and development on emerging ICT technologies for resilient power grids from 2018 to 2021. Through laboratory tests and live trials with the University of the Philippines-Los Banos (UPLB) power distribution system, Transco concluded that two newly invented technologies can transmit large data at very high speed and can be rapidly deployed using the existing power lines infrastructure, Matibag informed.

Project Lightning will primarily benefit public schools located in remote areas where the construction of broadband facilities would prove too expensive and unprofitable for private telecommunications service providers. During the Execom meeting, officials also discussed Transco’s other priority projects such as the interconnection to the Luzon grid and System Operation while waiting for the interconnection of the island provinces of Palawan, Mindoro, and Catanduanes to provide affordable, reliable, and stable electricity supply to these areas.

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