MANILA — With the Court of Appeals (CA) made public a ruling that affirmed the legality of the P69.1-billion deal by Pangilinan-led PLDT and Ayala-led Globe involving the telecommunications business of San Miguel, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) will find an alternative plan to break the duopoly of the two giant telecommunication companies.
The government plans to partner with small internet service providers (ISP) to bring down the cost of the internet, especially in rural areas since there is now a high demand in the Philippines, said Eliseo Rio Jr., officer-in-charge of the DICT. The plan involves several phases and components of the DICT’s P77.9-billion National Broadband Project (NBP). It is meant to send a message to smaller ISP that they have the full support of the government in the hopes of increasing their ranks.
The DICT hopes it would lead to more access to affordable bandwidth for the government infrastructure and ultimately pass the savings to end-users.
“This partnership of government and small players will constitute the third player,” Rio said in a social media post, “in providing free wi-fi in public places nationwide, DICT is going to subscribe to ISPs, which will increase in numbers because of this demand.”
He explained the existing ISPs can be contracted within the year. It will rely on facilities of commercial providers initially leased and eventually the DICT will acquire its own international gateway by 2019 with a capacity of 2 terabits per second.
Almost all Philippine landing stations are owned by PLDT and Globe. DICT hopes to have its own landing stations linking the country to the world in Baler, Aurora and Roro Point, La Union. Rio further explained the NBP will activate the Domestic Wideband Information Network (DWIN), which includes the government’s own backbone and middle mile network, by 2019 and would likely use the nationwide network of state-run National Transmission Corp. In time the ISPs can move to the government’s network in providing “last mile” links to various access points for public places, schools, military and police posts.
“Our people will start feeling improvement in our internet access around the third quarter of 2018. RA10929 or The Free Internet Access to Public Places Act will cover around 250,000 public places,” Rio said.
Bidding exercise will begin in November this year which the DICT hopes the ISPs will join. The bid price would be in the form of subscriptions “which include the cost of leasing the backbone and the middle mile from existing commercial providers and the last mile that they will provide.”
DICT’s latest initiative has the blessing of the industry advocates. “The crucial enabler of a diverse and innovative last mile access network, whether in the metro or in rural areas is the availability of transparent and reasonably priced, reliable wholesale internet connectivity,” said Winthrop Yu, Chair of the Internet Society, Philippines Chapter.
“We are heartened to hear of DICT’s plans to provide the internet backbone and middle mile to downstream players at fair, reasonable and transparent terms, and hope this can be fast-tracked,” Yu added.
However it has its limitations. Rio said they are mainly focused in the fixed-internet space, which comprises a “big market.” PLDT and Globe have the mobile services for now.
“If one is mobile, then he/she can access the internet on the mobile networks owned by the duopoly,” Rio said, “but as I pointed out, 80 percent of the time, we are stationary. “
“This can now be done because smartphones can automatically and seamlessly connect from fixed to mobile internet access and vice-versa,” he explained.