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The Philippines doubles 2021 budget for broadband services

The Philippines is now anticipating better internet connectivity after Congress approved an increased budget to improve broadband services.

In a statement released on 13 December, the Philippine Congress announced that it has doubled the nation’s budget allocation for broadband services in an attempt to generate more jobs and scale-up internet connectivity even in remote parts of the country.

Senator Sonny Angara, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, stated that Congress has approved the overall national budget of PHP 4.5 trillion (US$ 93.6 billion) under the General Appropriations Bill Wednesday last week.

Of this amount, the funding for the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s (DICT) National Broadband Program (NBP) was doubled to PHP 1.9 billion (US$ 39.5 million). This was a massive increase from the PHP 903.194 million (US$ 18.8 million) earlier proposed in the National Expenditure Program.

This amount is on top of funding allotted for DICT’s undertaking to provide free Wi-Fi services in public places and state universities and colleges or SUCs. The budget for free Wi-Fi services was increased to PHP 250 million (US$) while the allocation for free internet in SUC’s also received more funding.

Republic Act 10929 or the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act mandates that free internet access in all government offices and public places shall be provided. The same directive is also given to academic institutions owned by the state. These services will be beneficial for students who have been continuously adapting to flexible and alternative methods of learning.

There is optimism that the country can expect better internet connectivity after the completion of the first phase of the NBP. He noted that there is now an added imperative to push for better internet infrastructure and emphasised the growing need to “also look at the actual internet infrastructure because that will provide greater investments”.

Generating more jobs and boosting the economy

Aside from improving the current state of internet connectivity in all areas in the Philippines, better broadband infrastructure means the possibility of more investments coming into the country. This is expected to generate “more high-paying jobs and stable economic activity”.

The legislator also said that the country has to have more reliable internet services which have become more urgent in light of the new normal posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another upside to investing in broadband infrastructure is that government expenses for internet services will be reduced considerably. The DICT explained through figures that every month, each government office now spends an average of PHP 350 (US$ 7.29) per Mbps of internet bandwidth. An agency consuming 100 Mbps of internet connection pays PHP 35,000 (US$ 728.5) every month for internet.

Upon the completion of the first phase of the NBP, the DICT estimates that the monthly internet expenses of an average size government agency would be decreased to PHP 5,000 (US$ 104). With these projected figures, the government can thus be expected to save PHP 720 million (US$ 14.9 million) during the first year of the adoption of the NBP.

The higher budget allotted for internet services comes after efforts were exerted by legislators in pushing for increased funding for the NBP. As reported by OpenGov Asia, legislators earlier asked for an allotment of PHP 5.9 billion (US$ 122.61 million) which would go to broadband services. Senator Grace Poe, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Services, stated in that report that this is the first time that spending on telecommunications services would be a part of the national budget, as most investments in broadband infrastructure in the Philippines have been made by businesses in the private sector.

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