ICT department seeking P13.5 billion for National Broadband Program

(Eagle News)–The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is seeking around P13.5 billion for its National Broadband Program.

In a statement, the department said it had recommended the allocation of the  P13,491,357,000 for fiscal year (FY) 2021 to allow for digitization improvements amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposal was a huge increase from the current budget allocation for the NBP, or P296,461,000.

“The call for faster and more accessible Internet connectivity has never been more immediate as we aim to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 crisis while preparing for the demands of the new normal under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte,” department secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II said.

Under the program, the government aims to  build and enhance existing ICT broadband infrastructure to make Internet connectivity “pervasive, accessible and more affordable for the public,” the department said.

The following six  components are crucial: the national Fiber Optic Cable (FOC) backbone which is hoped to span 2295 kilometers by 2021 to cover the entire Philippine territory; cable landing stations; accelerated tower build; accelerated fiber build; satellite overlay; and Broadband Delivery Management Service (BDMS).

So far, under the national FOC backbone component, 158 dark fiber segments of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines have been successfully tested.

The department, together with the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA), has also completed the construction of  cable landing stations at Baler, Aurora and Poro Point, La Union.

The DICT said the construction of the 240-km fiber highway is expected to improve access to 2Tbps capacity by 2021, and is underway.

“The DICT has also issued the Policy Guidelines on the Co-location and Sharing of Passive Telecommunication Tower Infrastructure for Macro Cell Sites on June 08, 2020 to fast-track the rollout of common towers,” the department said, noting that the policy “aims to accelerate telecommunications infrastructure rollout in the private sector to provide remote areas of the country with affordable and fast Internet connectivity.”

Under the accelerated fiber build component, 792 agencies in 13 GovNet sites are connected at present.

The plan is to connect a total of 463 agencies in six GovNet sites by the end of 2020, and a total of 810 agencies in fourteen new GovNet sites by the end of 2021.

Under the NBP, the department said  ICT equipment for 300 GovNet sites will be replaced;  seven existing sites expanded; and IP Transport Services for eight GovNet sites provided.

The sixth component, BDMS, is a recently added feature for 2021 and shall ensure uniform service delivery and promote healthy competition among Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to drive better quality Internet at lower costs, the department said.

“The establishment of a national fiber optic backbone is a very pressing matter, not just in light of the public health emergency, but for the sake of national competitiveness. We are putting in place these strategies to reinvigorate the country’s participation in the global digital economy to achieve our vision of a Digital Philippines,” Honasan said.

The department is proposing a total budget of  P46,645,238,000 for 2021.

The DICT said the amount would fund five key strategic programs to propel government digital transformation as the nation transitions to the new normal.

These five are digital connectivity and access,  digital government, digital education and digital workforce, digital cities and provinces, and cybersecurity.

The NBP, the Free Wi-Fi for All Program, and the Government Emergency Communications System are under the first program.