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DICT inks deal with to roll out provincial broadband network in Pangasinan

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) recently inked an agreement with the Province of Pangasinan and the Municipality of Manaoag for the implementation of the Free Wi-Fi for All Programme and the construction of the Pangasinan Provincial Broadband Network and the Manaoag Municipal Broadband Network.

According to a press release, this initiative is in line with the first phase of the National Broadband Program (NBP), which will link established provincial broadband networks to the national fibre backbone.

The NBP is a major component of the DICT’s Connect-Connect-Connect initiative, which aims to improve telecommunications and Internet services in the country. Once the provincial broadband networks are linked and activated, the corresponding government units can avail of the benefits of the NBP. Aside from Pangasinan, the DICT had already secured similar agreements with Baguio City, Zambales Province, and Negros Occidental.

Phase 1 of the NBP shall cover various provinces in Luzon and areas of the National Capital Region, whereas the second phase aims to cover the whole country over the next two years, especially in areas that are remote, inaccessible, and considered unprofitable by the private sector.

The Pangasinan provincial government sees the provincial broadband network rollout as a game-changer. It is expected to enable remote communities within the province to access digital opportunities through improved connectivity services.

In October, during the Budget Hearing held by the Senate Committee on Finance, DICT emphasised the need for a government-owned broadband network to improve Internet quality, coverage, and affordability.

As OpenGov Asia reported earlier, the Department appealed to the Senate, and earlier to the House of Representatives, for an increase in its 2021 budget. DICT is requesting an additional budget of around 18 billion pesos (about US$ 374 million) for the completion of the government’s broadband network through the NBP.

Senator Imee Marcos supported the DICT’s call for an additional budget for the NBP, citing other countries’ success in improving Internet services through a national broadband network.

Neighbouring countries like Indonesia and Vietnam also allotted substantial government investments in Internet and broadband infrastructure. In Indonesia, the 2014-2019 Indonesia Broadband Plan required total funding of US$ 23.2 billion, 10% of which was covered by the state budget. Meanwhile, Vietnam allocated US$ 820 million worth of investment on a 23,000km system submarine cable.

Other countries like Australia and New Zealand allocated around US$ 37 billion, and US$ 1.19 billion, respectively, for their own national broadband network.  South Korea, one of the countries with the fastest internet service in the world, had invested some US$ 27.7 billion in 1995 for its internet connectivity under the 10-year Korean Information Infrastructure Project, its version of the NBP.

The 2021 National Expenditure Programme (NEP)-approved budget for the DICT’s NBP is only US$ 18 million. DICT said it is high time for the government to prioritise ICT programmes as the country transitions to the new normal.

DICT Assistant Secretary for Digital Philippines Emmanuel Rey Caintic explained that the completion of the NBP would result in cheaper and better Internet service quality. He said the Internet in the country is expensive because telecommunications companies spend a lot of capital in building ICT infrastructure to deliver Internet services.

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