What is DICT’s National Broadband Plan of the Philippines?

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Written by: Maine Dela Cruz

Over the last several decades, the Philippines has slowly caught up with other nations in terms of offering universal broadband access. Advances in information and communications technology (ICT), notably broadband technology, have benefitted everyone, not only the government but also those in the private sector. As concerned government agencies increase their efforts in establishing digital infrastructure and improving existing infrastructure, particularly implementing the National Broadband Plan, telecommunications and internet providers in the Philippines are able to offer more affordable broadband access. With the National Broadband Plan, we can expect better fiber internet and other broadband services, and improved internet speed.

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What Does Broadband Mean?

Broadband, considered the fourth utility, has given tremendous efficiency and creative solutions across a wide range of industries. It also enhanced the country’s ability to contribute to equitable and sustainable growth.

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The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) defines entry-level broadband as a data connection speed of at least 256 kilobits per second (Kbps). This is in the context of Memorandum Circular 07-08-2015. According to the International Telecommunication Union-Sector for Telecom Standards (ITU-T), broadband is considered to be a transmission rate of at least 1.5 or 2.0 Megabits per second (Mbps).

Philippine Rankings in Terms of Internet Speed and Quality

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According to worldwide research conducted by information technology firm Surfshark Ltd., the Philippines scored 48th out of 110 nations in the 2021 Digital Quality of Life (DQL) Index. This is thanks to advances in internet quality and electronic security.

Because of weak ratings in the five pillars of digital life — internet affordability, internet quality, electronic infrastructure, electronic security, and electronic government — the country was rated 66th last year. The biggest flaw was the poor quality of its internet connectivity, which was rated 84th.

According to Ookla’s Speedtest Global Index for June, the Philippines’ fixed broadband internet speed increased. This is by 741.34 percent since 2016. Meanwhile, mobile data speed increased by 341.40 percent.

In July 2016, the fixed broadband download speed in the nation was just 7.91 megabits per second (Mbps). And the mobile download speed was 7.44 Mbps.

National Broadband Plan (NBP) Definition

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The Philippine government, in its desire to accelerate the deployment of fiber optic cables and wireless technologies, and improve the overall internet speed and affordability all over the country, particularly in remote areas, developed the National Broadband Plan (NBP).

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) serves as a road map for accelerating the development of fiber optic cables and wireless technologies across the country, consequently increasing Internet speed.

By virtue of Republic Act 10844, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has been designated as the Executive Branch’s primary policy, planning, coordinating, implementing, and administrative entity charged with planning, developing, and promoting the country’s information and communications technology (ICT) development agenda. It is also enviably tasked with implementing one of the key deliverables of the Philippine Digital Strategy (PDS) 2011-2016 —crafting and implementing a national broadband policy to accelerate broadband infrastructure deployment.

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) Vision

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The National Broadband Plan envisions “a resilient, comfortable and vibrant life for all, enabled by open, pervasive, inclusive, affordable, and trusted broadband internet access.”

Consistent with Executive Order No. 5, s. 2016, authorizing and adopting the twenty-five-year long-term vision ‘Ambisyon Natin 2040,’ the preceding statement reflects the government’s vision to raise Filipinos’ living standards and, ultimately, eradicate poverty through the provision of a strategic, reliable, cost-effective, and citizen-centric information infrastructure. The government will empower Filipinos’ lifestyles by providing broadband Internet access that is:

1. Open

The government seeks to establish internet services developed through an innovative, multi-stakeholder approach that takes into account the emergence of policy and regulatory challenges.

2. Pervasive

Access to the internet is available anytime, anywhere, thanks to emerging wired and wireless broadband technology solutions.

3. Inclusive

Broadband is relevant and accessible to all elements of society, even those on the margins.

4. Affordable

Internet access is financially feasible and well worth the investment.

5. Trusted

Internet users may confidently use the internet in a fast, reliable, and secure way.

Importance of Broadband According to the National Broadband Plan

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Broadband is a critical facilitator of economic growth and national competitiveness, as well as a factor in social and cultural development. In the Philippines, the provision of high-quality, cheap broadband services is critical for facilitating innovation, economic growth, and development, as well as reinforcing social inclusion and cultural norms. The following are the advantages of broadband to the country:

1. Economic transformation

Internet connectivity drives economic transformation at the national and sectoral levels, as well as the essential adaptation of the public and private sectors to meet the difficulties and imperatives of global commerce. Broadband will fundamentally alter the way transactions are performed, redefining value and supply chains as well as the relationships between the parties involved.

2. Efficiency

Productivity gains when corporate and government procedures are optimized. Broadband, in particular, will assist to increase information availability and cycle times for many economic activities.

Costs connected with transactions will be minimized, and waste associated with existing procedures will be further reduced.

3. Improved government services

Improved public administration and service delivery through the creation of electronic government transactions to boost quality, reduce costs, and expand access and convenience. More individuals will have access to a broader range of government services more often and efficiently.

4. Social inclusivity

Social inclusion occurs as a result of individuals creating and reinforcing communities online, as well as facilitating the reach, connections, and interactions of individuals and groups.

5. Personal and professional growth

Having fast and reliable internet access provides numerous chances for personal growth and skill development.

6. Educational and recreational opportunities

Increased familiarity and experience with the external environment in both education and recreation.

7. Cultural preservation

It may sound ironic how technology and culture go hand in hand, but having broadband access supports the preservation and reinforcement of culture and cultural norms.

8. Innovation

Development of innovative goods, services, and apps that enhance the Philippines’ cultural, social, and economic life.

9. Realization of digital economy potentials

Having access to broadband taps the Philippines’ potential to be a leading digital economy.

Expected Outcome of the National Broadband Plan

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In accordance with the vision of the National Broadband Plan, the government will implement policy, regulatory, and information infrastructure reforms to promote competition in the telecoms and information technology industries and to guarantee broadband internet access is available, affordable, and of high quality. By fulfilling this vision, the government will be able to achieve its expected outcomes.

1. Accelerated investment

The government will provide relevant policies and regulations, as well as required interventions and incentives, to spur investment, particularly in rural areas. This would encourage existing and new market participants to invest in unserved and underserved regions, as well as to improve service to areas that are now serviced.

2. Mobilized and engaged public and private sectors

The government is to establish strategic partnerships and engagements with the private sector and industry players, civil society organizations, and academia, by establishing mechanisms for these entities to participate in the development of the telecommunications and information and communication technology sectors.

3. More places connected

This result will establish projects or interventions to connect government agencies, schools, health care institutions, and Micro, Small, and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) to the broadband information infrastructure, among others. Additionally, it intends to promote effective spectrum management and the widespread adoption of satellite and future technologies for broadband deployment.

4. Increased take-up rate

This will be accomplished through the implementation of initiatives that promote demand for broadband, including the promotion of the usage and creation of indigenous content and apps; the execution of digital literacy programs; and also the introduction of fiscal incentives for broadband users.

Entities Involved in the implementation of the National Broadband Plan

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The implementation of the National Broadband Plan does not rely on one agency or entity alone. It requires a synergy of the public and private sectors particularly the following:

1. Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT)

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) will create a Project Management Office to ensure the successful completion of the National Broadband Plan. In fact, according to the Office’s mission statement, it will be accountable for the creation and implementation of the National Broadband Plan and will design its own internal policies and strategies.

2. National agencies and Local Government Units (LGUs)

National and local governments will exert significant influence on the National Broadband Plan’s implementation, particularly on the regulatory front. Additionally, the government has the authority to stage interventions in critical areas through the aforementioned policy reforms and investor interactions.

3. Internet providers in the Philippines

Service providers, such as telecommunications corporations and Internet service providers, are also critical components of the proposed infrastructures’ construction and integration. They are providers of goods and services to individual consumers. Thus, they will need to begin improving the quality and affordability of their offerings.

4. Filipino citizens

Local communities and organizations are critical for bringing about change on a local level. These groups will need to develop programs that encourage new users, particularly in rural areas, to embrace new technology and reap its benefits.

National Broadband Program Strategies

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The National Broadband Plan, which addresses the clamor for universal, faster, and affordable internet access has three major broad strategies.

1. Establishment of policy and regulatory reforms

With the fast expansion and progress of the telecommunications and information and communication technology sectors, existing regulatory frameworks governing this business should be revised to accommodate new technological developments. In light of this, the government will prioritize reviewing and amending pertinent laws, policies, and regulatory issuances.

2. Government investment in broadband infostructure

To advance the National Broadband Plan, the development of the Philippine Integrated Infostructure (PhII) is suggested in order to solve bottlenecks in the backbone and backhaul sectors, as well as to meet the increased bandwidth requirements of today’s digital society.

On the other hand, to execute the PhII, the government will address the market’s inability to do so within the requisite period and will avoid creating an infostructure excess while establishing the network. To develop a PhII, careful attention will be given to the scope variety and commercial tactics involving direct government construction and operation, PPP arrangements, and subsidized investment. This may involve the formation of one or more public-private partnerships (PPPs) to provide new infrastructure and services.

3. Support for the stimulation of broadband demand

Additionally, to maintain the pace of pervasive information infrastructure development, the government will implement required “pull” measures to encourage demand and ultimately improve broadband adoption rates. These also include initiatives and actions aimed at developing and promoting local content; conducting capacity building and information outreach; and introducing incentives for broadband users.

Key Takeaway

Despite the notable progress in the country’s overall internet performance, the Philippines lags behind its peers in terms of affordability, availability, and speed of internet access. With the development of the National Broadband Plan (NBP), we can expect “a resilient, comfortable and vibrant life for all” with fast, reliable, and affordable internet access.

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