Consumer group urges government to expand internet connectivity in the Philippines

A consumer group urged the national government to allocate more funds in further improving the internet infrastructure in the country in order to include people from geographically-isolated and disadvantaged areas in the digital accessibility goal. 

In a statement, consumer group Bantay Konsyumer, Kalsada, Kuryente (BK3) said the national government’s digitalization efforts should be more inclusive as Filipinos are now living in the digital age where a lot of operations are now being done online. 

“Internet connection is a human right and investments in broadband infrastructure should be a priority, as access to the internet should not be limited,” the group said.

“Access to the internet should not be limited to leisure... Internet connectivity now facilitates transactions between consumers and businessmen, information gathering and communication among common people, and the submission of simple tasks,” it added.

Government data showed that the Philippines is still lagging behind its neighboring countries in terms of broadband connectivity, due to the lack of infrastructure for internet connection.

2021 data from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) showed that there are more than 22,000 cell sites in the country, less than a third of Vietnam's 90,000, and they are shared between three telcos. 

The Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) proposes 35,000 additional cell sites.

According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Philippines has the lowest coverage rates of telecom towers in the Southeast Asian region and will need an additional 60,000 towers by 2031 in remote areas.

Several lawmakers and stakeholders in the telecommunications industry are also suggesting the revision of the National Building Code of 1977 to remove the lease for telecommunications infrastructure to help telcos get access to cell sites faster and help address internet connectivity woes among Filipinos. 

House Bill Nos. 8534 and 900, which have the same objective, are two measures presented in the House of Representatives that seek to give property developers precise rules and a precise definition for how much space they must set aside to provide essential telecommunication services.

"Kung sa mga lungsod ay kapos at hirap pa sa connectivity, paano na sa mga hindi urbanized na mga lugar (If urbanized areas are still struggling with internet connectivity, rural areas have it worse),” the BK3 said in a statement.

“The issue of lack of internet connectivity should be addressed immediately,” it added.