Internet advocates are urging lawmakers to move forward with a bill that will help spur the development of new information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure that will pave the way for a new digital economy.

In a statement on Thursday (June 4), the Better Broadband Alliance (BBA) called for action on Senate Bill No. 45 and House Bill No. 57, or the proposed Open Access in Data Transmission Act.

It comes on the heels of what Sen. Ralph Recto said was the need to close the “digital deficit.”

“Our coalition has long pushed for reliable and affordable internet connectivity as a way to pursue digital transformation and economic inclusivity,” BBA lead convenor Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos said in a statement.

“Today, still faced with the COVID-19 pandemic but with the urgency of bouncing back, access to the internet and online resources ensures our people’s health and safety,” she added.

The Open Access bill will liberalize the industry, allowing more players to build and operate broadband networks, promote infrastructure sharing and make spectrum management more transparent and fair.

These changes in the market structure will lower costs for users and spur the construction of needed broadband infrastructure in schools, local hospitals, village halls and homes.

The BBA acknowledged the Department of Information and Communication Technology’s own programs for a national broadband network and free public Wi-Fi.

But is also underscored the need to “act in parallel on structural policy measures that will provide an incentive for market players to connect the unserved and underserved areas, as well as deliver reliable, usable, and affordable internet to end users.”

“It is time for Congress to update analog-era laws and bring them to the digital age,” Santos said.

BBA said beneficiaries also included students in far-flung areas, freelancers and small businesses.

“Sadly, 40 percent of Filipinos are not yet connected and many communities struggle just to get a stable 3G signal, preventing our citizens from continuing their education, being productive amid mobility restrictions, and participating in the digital economy,” she said.

“The fate of this landmark legislation for Philippine digital connectivity rests in your hands,” according to Santos.
“We need to pass this law now or forever suffer from poor internet service, cripple the nation’s digital capabilities and competitiveness, and leave millions of unconnected Filipinos behind,” Santos added.

Edited by TSB


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