• DICT chief wants unused radio frequencies audited

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    The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is keen on having an audit of unused radio frequencies to determine which could be reassigned to telecom players.

    The idea is to make use of the frequencies for the benefit of the consumer.

    “Because frequency is a scarce public resource, and the telcos needed as much frequency because of the blooming and blossoming use of data correspondence via the internet, I said: Make an inventory of all frequencies still available, and all frequencies already assigned,” DICT Secretary Rodolfo Salalima said during his speech at the IT-BPM Roadmap 2017 to 2022 launch on Monday.

    “And on frequencies already assigned, I said: Tell me, have they used these frequencies?
    Because if they have not used these frequencies within a reasonable time as stated in the decision giving them, or assigning to them the frequency, I said you better start reporting this assignment of frequency because they ought to be assigned to telcos who can make effective and efficient use of the frequency,” Salalima noted.

    “I said I do not want public telephone entities to be warehousing frequencies—meaning, keeping assigned frequencies from government, storing it without using it, but using it for speculative purposes that is contrary to our constitution, that is contrary to Republic Act 7925 which is the public service law, which says all frequency must be given [or]assigned only to those who can make an effective and efficient use of the frequency,” he added.

    Globe and PLDT previously criticized the government for assigning the unused 700 megahertz (MHz) spectrum solely to San Miguel Corp.’s. But after SMC-Telstra deal did not push through, PLDT and Globe moved to equally acquire SMC’s telecom business under Vega Telecom Inc. for P69.1 billion. This includes the 700 MHz.

    According to globe, the 700 MHz would allow the deployment of a high-capacity LTE based wireless and fixed broadband network for higher data rate and LTE wireless broadband service. In other words, faster internet connectivity for the benefit of consumers.

    “They should return [unused frequencies]to the government,” Salalima said.

    “ . . . Under the Constitution, these frequencies are the patrimony of the nation. They are beyond the commerce of man. If it was the subject of bidding, then what they paid [for]was only the price for using, but they do not become owners of these frequencies because they can never be owned,” the DICT chief said.

    Asked if the department has the power to undo the P69.1-billion transaction among PLDT, Globe, and SMC, Salalima said it is not under DICT jurisdiction because it is a question of anti-trust practices and abuse of market dominance, which is under the Philippine Competition Commission.

    He said monopolies are not really prohibited under the law, with the exemption of “natural” monopolies which cause the “natural death of the competitor, not that they are blocking the competitor.”

    DICT is also working on shortening the trial periods to four months at most from the previous practice of one year or more, and reduce the time local government units (LGUs) must approve permits to three days after the application.

    “I said draft a Memorandum Circular to the effect that in the trial and resolution of public service applications before the NTC [National Telecommunications Commission], the trial must be only for three months, the resolution of the cases must only be one month from date of submission, for a total of four months, not a year or thereafter. Because, I said, delay is an opportunity or a cause of corruption,” Salalima said in his speech at the same event.

    “The number two order, I said: draft for me an Executive Order to be recommended to . . . and to be signed by the President, that all LGUs in the country must process, must approve permits and applications of all telcos within three days from submission, because this is a cause of delay for public services.

    “This has been raised by the telcos as the cause why the speed of services are admittedly slow, but they have done a lot. They need, however, to further improve the service. I’m using the word ‘further’ because I don’t want to demand the services of the telco,” he added.

    Passed into law under the Republic Act No. 10844, the DICT is the “primary policy, planning, coordinating, implementing and administrative entity of the executive branch of the government that will plan, develop and promote the national ICT development agenda.”

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