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Satellite-Based Technologies to Improve Connectivity in Rural Philippines

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Given that the Philippines is an archipelago with limited telecommunications infrastructure, leveraging the use of satellite technology as an alternate connectivity solution can help resolve internet connection reliability problems, particularly in rural areas.

Additionally, despite having the world’s most active population of social media users and the fastest-growing information technology and business process outsourcing sector, the Philippines has an internet problem that affects the country’s economic growth.

A senator has filed a bill seeking for the satellite-based internet to be improved in these poor-connectivity areas in the Philippines. The bill intends to expand Internet access by improving the entry of new satellite technologies to provide services to areas that are either unserved or underserved.

The lawmaker said that satellite-based internet is widely used by both developed and developing countries to provide internet services, particularly in areas where wired or mobile networks are more expensive to roll out. At a time when most transactions were shifted to virtual platforms to lessen physical interactions amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the senator said the use of digital technologies in the country is still below its potential with 45% of Filipinos and 74% of public schools nationwide remain unconnected. The situation is far worse in the Visayas and Mindanao where there’s less than 40% of Internet usage.

In order to achieve universal internet access, the aims to have the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) expand access to satellite-based technologies as an alternate connection solution. It will exercise regulatory and administrative jurisdiction over ISPs and satellite policies, pursue policies to secure necessary orbital slots for PH satellites, and identify areas that are underserved and unserved by traditional broadband network operators and where the use of satellite-based internet can be maximized, to name a few.

Improved internet access across the country would reduce isolation and increase economic prospects for those living in rural and remote places. But following a simple calculus of cost-effectiveness, the nation’s communications duopoly maintains limited cellular infrastructure in cities. People in remote, rural areas remain unconnected.

Improving internet access in the country will spur investments in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector and expand the digital infrastructure that will ensure universal access to the internet, especially in critical areas such as e-government and the delivery of basic services, education, health, trade, finance, disaster preparedness, and public safety.

OpenGov Asia had reported in an article that the government recognises universal access to fast and reliable internet services is vital for the country to join the ranks of developed economies due to the internet’s transformative impact on e-government and the delivery of basic services, the elimination of red tape, freedom of information, disaster preparedness, public safety, readiness for climate change, education for all, and inclusive growth.

Satellites serve as an important option to deliver broadband services to residences and businesses in rural and remote regions throughout the world. In OECD countries, the majority of people live in urban areas or at locations that are closely settled enough to use other broadband access technologies on a cost-effective basis. Satellite technology, on the other hand, is introducing a number of key innovations that will improve services and perhaps radically change the costs of providing satellite broadband.

Rural residents can participate in economic and civic life much beyond their geographic region and that to high-speed internet, which breaks down distance and time barriers. By improving internet access in these places, communications would be made possible by eliminating the logistical constraints of regionally-based business models, allowing businesses in isolated areas to compete with their big-city counterparts. Ultimately, the enormous economic and social benefits provided by high-speed Internet access in rural areas would eventually help the entire country.

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