By Myrna M. Velasco
The country’s electric cooperatives (ECs) and Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) will have a follow-through meeting this month to flesh out the details of the Internet connection service for rural areas that shall be backed by the fiber optic cables (FOCs) of these power utilities.
“There will be a follow-up meeting with DICT to be organized by NEA (National Electrification Administration) to be attended by the ECs. First set will be the ECs with existing fiber optic cables to discuss how to maximize that existing facility,” NEA Administrator Edgardo Masongsong said.
And for electric cooperatives without FOCs, arrangements will also be discussed how these utilities could install fiber optics.
“The NEA and ECs would want to help government fast-track internet connections up to the rural areas because also of the plan or what the President wants to have – free wifi in public places like buildings, schools, plazas, hospitals, terminals,” the chief of the electrification agency has noted.
Last month, the DICT has formally cemented a deal with the ECs on its offer of “faster internet connection” in rural areas, including the remotest communities of the country.
According to the plan, the existing nodes of the ECs shall be used as the “last mile connection” in extending fast and efficient internet connection services to the provinces and far-flung areas.
Masongsong said NEA and the DICT “have started exploring arrangements to bring broadband connectivity into the countryside by tapping the existing infrastructure of the ECs.”
The NEA is the government-run agency closely supervising the operations of the electric cooperatives that have been serving millions of end-users in various jurisdictions nationwide.
The electrification agency indicated that “widespread availability of high-speed and affordable broadband in remote and rural areas of the country will soon be a reality through the electric cooperatives.”
The DICT’s last-mile internet connection deal with the ECs is a viable follow-through to the first tripartite agreement that the agency had with the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) for the use of its dark fiber optic cables on the State’s broadband program.
For the transmission firm, it will be establishing an independent account or will separately book on its financial statements the collections that it will eventually be having from its offer of broadband services to Filipino end-users.
According to the transmission company, this is in keeping with the functional unbundling mandate set forth by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) for various business segments that industry players would be engaging in at the restructured electricity sector.
The NGCP similarly explained that having a separate account will help in clearly determining which portion of the account shall be plowed back to reduce electricity rates for consumers.
As prescribed under the EPIRA, at least 50-percent of the proceeds from the use of NGCP’s fiber optic assets may be funneled into bringing down the cost of power for end-users.
The DICT has scheduled P20 billion worth of capital spending over four years – or until 2022, so it can improve the information technology (IT) infrastructure backbone that will then enable the internet connectivity of most Filipino households in marginalized areas.