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DICT, DPWH boost Philippine internet infrastructure

The Philippine Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) fully supports the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)’s initiative to allow telecommunications companies to occupy a portion of the government’s Right of Way (ROW) to facilitate infrastructure build-up and speed up improvements to connectivity services in the country.

This is under the DPWH Department Order No. 29 (DO 29) or the “DPWH Policy on Telecommunications and Internet Infrastructure under Republic Act (RA) No. 11494” that eases restrictions on telecommunications companies aiming to construct information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure projects along national roads.

To put things into perspective, in 2014, the DPWH issued DO No. 73 prohibiting telecommunication and power companies from constructing posts along national roads as it “creates an imminent danger to lives and properties and hamper relief operations” during calamities. But during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the DICT and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) asked the DPWH to consider changing the order as it slowed down the rollout of critical telecom infrastructure.

The DO 29 amendment complies with the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Bayanihan 1), or Republic Act (RA) No. 11469, that paved the way for accelerated approval of permits and other documents from the local government to speed up the construction of telecommunication towers. Also, Bayanihan 2, or RA No. 11494, further eased the construction of telecommunication infrastructure by waiving several other permitting requirements for telecommunication companies.

DO 29 allows telcos and ICT service providers to construct and undertake excavations and/or restoration work for ICT Infrastructure Projects within the allowable ROW limits of the national roads. DO 29 however, shall automatically cease application in 2024, after the lapse of three (3) years from its signing and approval.

DICT said that to address the increased need for Internet connectivity services during the state of public health emergency such as COVID-19, they thought that governing agencies must prioritise faster rollout of ICT infrastructures like cellular towers. The agency fully supports the DPWH’s initiative, and they hope that this will help address the issues of congestion, connection reliability and coverage soon.

Moreover, the DPWH stated that the DICT, along with the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), were instrumental in paving the way for the issuance of DO 29. Since last year, these agencies had urged the DPWH to revisit and establish more conducive ROW regulations to help improve internet connectivity in the country.

The DICT and the DPWH are working hand in hand to ensure compliance with their respective commitments under the Memorandum of Agreement signed during the First Philippine Telecoms Summit in 2017 to eliminate barriers to the expansion of connectivity services in the country.

Meanwhile, telecommunications companies thanked the DPWH for releasing DO 29, removing a bottleneck that prevented telecommunication service providers from constructing infrastructure projects along national roads. With this, telco companies now see faster network builds in the country. They also said that the DO 29 allows ICT service providers to construct and undertake excavations and restoration works for infrastructure projects within the allowable right of way limits of national roads.

Accordingly, reports say that as the lockdowns restrict business operations and limit the movement of people in the Philippines, internet connectivity has never been more urgent to enable digital transformation as the country adapts to new landscapes brought about by the pandemic. In times of crisis such as COVID-19, the telecom industry plays an important role in ensuring business continuity and household sustainability as a dependency for reliable broadband connectivity becomes more critical. The report added that Internet connectivity will serve as one of the main foundations in supporting the overall digital infrastructure development in the Philippines.

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