The Senate Economic Planning Office, in partnership with the Office of Senator Nancy Binay, held the webinar, “Deleting the Digital Divide,” which tackled the legislative proposal adopting an open access in data transmission.
With roughly 200 participants coming from the Senate Secretariat offices, Senators’ offices and stakeholders, the webinar discussed the issues and challenges in data transmission under the present legal and policy environment and how the proposed measure would help address the situation.
The proposed Open Access in Data Transmission Act is filed in the Senate under Senate Bill Nos. (SBN) 45 authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and Senator Grace Poe, and SBN 911, authored by Senator Bong Revilla Jr.
Both bills seek to establish a policy that will encourage the entry of more players in the data transmission industry, the development of the digital infrastructure and the strengthening of the National Telecommunications Commission.
It is expected that the enactment of this legislative proposal will result in wider coverage, lower cost and better quality of internet services for all.
In a recorded opening remark, Binay, chairperson of the Committee on Science and Technology, said she hopes that the fruitful discussion in the webinar would be able to help the Senate in responding to the people’s need for better connectivity.
“If we are to chart a new normal and to ensure that no one will be left behind, we will need to introduce reforms to the way things are being done,” the veteran legislator said.
“What must we do to address the poor quality and high prices of internet services.”
“What must we do to address the poor quality and high prices of internet services that have bogged down our attempts to achieve interconnectivity and the benefits that come along with it?” the seasoned lawmaker asked.
For his part, Revilla said he filed SBN 911 in response to the clamor of Filipinos for a better information and communications technology infrastructure.
The veteran legislator said his bill numbered 911 is very telling, as the state of internet and data transmission in the country needs rescue and prompt assistance.
Grace Mirandilla-Santos, the webinar’s main resource person and Lead Policy Researcher for Broadband Infrastructure and Cyber Security under the Coalitions for Change Program of the Asia Foundation Philippines, pointed out that the country suffers from broadband infrastructure gap and that legal obstacles in outdated laws prevent the growth of Philippine Internet.
“The availability of broadband infrastructure is at the heart of the digital divide.”
“The Open Access in Data Transmission Act is a curative law designed to address specific legal obstacles and as a result, bridge this infrastructure gap,” Mirandilla-Santos said.
She also stated that the availability of broadband infrastructure is at the heart of the digital divide.
Many regions in the country remain to be underserved or unserved by internet service providers (ISPs) and Internet use dips below 40 percent outside of the National Capital Region. She added that more than 60 percent of barangays do not have a cellular tower, and over 70 percent reported not having access to fiber optic cables.
Reports also show that only 1 percent of barangays in some regions, like the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, have access to basic broadband facilities.
Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Asec. Alvin Navarro said that the agency and the Executive Department support the bills.
Echoing the position of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Financial Inclusion Steering Committee, Navarro stressed that internet connectivity is a critical enabler of financial and economic inclusion in the new economy.
He added that the DICT has pushed for the President’s certification of the said legislative proposal as an urgent measure.