Globe Telecom urged the government to pass legislation that would mitigate bureaucratic red tape and other political hurdles that stand in the way in the deployment of telecommunication and broadband infrastructure.
Globe General Counsel lawyer Froilan Castelo emphasized that rationalization of permitting processes in deploying ICT-related infrastructure is necessary to help the Philippines grow its Internet backbone so that local businesses will remain competitive amid rapid digitization of industries.
“A robust ICT infrastructure is vital in driving economic development and social progress in the country. The absence of necessary infrastructure impacts business capabilities and customer experience that could potentially stunt growth. We believe that an open access legislation will enable rapid deployment of telecommunication infrastructure and technologies across the country as barriers to installation and operation will be removed,” Castelo said.
An Open Access Law for the telco industry would minimize red tape and expedite the issuance of all the relevant permits for all telecommunications facilities at the local government level.
“While we understand that local government units can enact ordinances for the regulation of telecommunications operations and impose regulatory fees located within their respected areas in line with their right to local autonomy, such regulations shouldn’t be in conflict with the regulatory power of the National Telecommunications Commission,” Castelo said.
According to Castelo, permit or regulatory fee imposed by various local government units should cover only the reasonable costs of regulation. Prior to enactment of any pertinent ordinance, local government units concerned should be mandated to present itemized proof of said regulatory costs. A public hearing involving telecommunications companies and other stakeholders within their jurisdictions should also be conducted prior to the enactment of any local ordinance. Also, when these costs are requested in writing, a local government unit should also respond with the requested information in writing.
Castelo said the quality of existing telecommunication infrastructure in a given locality is oftentimes a direct result of the LGU permitting environment. He pointed out that securing local permits from LGU could become very challenging, from the sheer number of permits to the different political personalities that an internet service provider has to deal with.
“There are myriad of challenges that an ISP has to hurdle before it secures the needed permits to construct new or additional cell sites in a particular locality. At present, ISPs need to secure at least 25 permits to put up a single cell site,” he said.
Adding to the burden of ISPs in establishing telecommunication infrastructure, the
Department of Public Works and Highways last year issued an administrative order prohibiting public utilities including telephone companies from installing their poles, lines and conduits and from attaching their cables to electric poles located on national roads as well as remove all their existing infrastructure from these roads and instead transfer them to private properties.
Castelo said this order from the DPWH would definitely make laying down the much-needed fiber optic cables for better and faster Internet services even more difficult and challenging. To date, there is little support coming from property owners especially exclusive villages who have been known to drive telco infrastructures out of their properties despite their demand for better Internet and mobile service.