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Salceda calls internet access for all

May 24th, 2021

Salceda calls internet access for all “the new land reform;” House tax chair pushes for looser rules on satellite internet to help rural communities get cheap access to web

The House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda defended in plenary today House Bill No. 7081, or the Satellite Liberalization Act. The measure will allow small-town internet service providers, schools, and civic organizations to use the country’s satellite orbital to provide internet service to the countryside.

During his sponsorship speech for the measure, Salceda lamented that “the farther a community is from a main island like Luzon or Mindanao, the less likely one is to get internet. That is a source of inequality in wealth among the regions, especially now that many economic opportunities are tech-based.”

“In fact, much of the country’s underserved areas are in regions off Luzon island. In the Visayas, where major island groups may not be large enough to attract investment in internet infrastructure, internet use is at the lowest level in the country, at 34%,” Salceda added.

Cheaper than broadband for remote areas

“Broadband can be expensive for densely populated, archipelagic countries like the Philippines with little right-of-way to spare, and with islands where the massive outlays involved in broadband do not make economic sense. This is why we need options other than broadband to ensure equity in access to internet technology,” Salceda said.

“This is why I am thankful to Chairman Victor Yap and the Committee on Information and Communication Technology for moving the Satellite Liberalization Act through to the plenary. In summary, this measure will allow small-town internet service providers, schools, and civic organizations to use the country’s satellite orbital to provide internet service to the countryside” Salceda said.

Salceda adds that the capacity for satellite-based internet exists. Salceda cites that according to the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT), there are 48 satellites ready to deliver bandwidth to the Philippines.

Satellite access restricted before EO 127

“Around the time we filed this bill,” Salceda said, “the policy on the use of satellites, as codified in Executive Order No. 467 (1998), restricts the Access to International Fixed Satellite Systems to “enfranchised telecommunications entities duly authorized by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to provide international telecommunications services,” and broadcast service providers.”

“We have recently moved in the right direction. President Rodrigo Duterte signed on March 10, Executive Order No. 127, liberalizing access to satellite services, which seeks to expand the provision of internet services through the use of satellite technologies in order to provide Filipinos with improved access to internet connectivity,” the House tax chair added.

Salceda however emphasized the need to codify the liberalization into law, to ensure that it is immune to “the mere stroke of a pen of another President.”

More equitable access to the internet

Apart from liberalized access to satellite services, Salceda’s proposal also encourages government organizations, public and non-profit private educational institutions, volunteer organizations engaged in education, environmental management, climate change management, disaster preparedness and crisis response to own and operate satellite-based technology in order to aid and augment their activities.

“Internet access is like the land reform of this generation. As wealth becomes more and more tech-based, and jobs become more available online, we need to ensure every Filipino has access to cheap, reliable internet,” Salceda said.

“Affordable internet access in the countryside will help diffuse high-paying freelance jobs and even the BPO sector away from Manila. Most job opportunities available in the internet do not care whether you’re in the province or in NCR. That is why connecting everyone, even the farthest communities in the farthest islands, to the internet is important to me.

It’s a tool for social equity,” Salceda added.

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