Senator Win Gatchalian has refiled a bill that seeks to improve internet access in the country by expanding the existing digital infrastructure through the use of satellite-based technologies.
Under Senate Bill No. 814 or the Satellite-Based Technologies for Internet Connectivity Act of 2022, which Gatchalian originally filed in the 18th Congress, the government shall promote the use and development of satellite services, especially in critical areas to ensure universal access to the internet to support e-government and the delivery of basic services, education, health, trade, finance, disaster preparedness, and public safety.
Gatchalian said the use of digital technologies in the Philippines is still below its potential as 45% of Filipino citizens and 74% of public schools remain unconnected, according to the 2019 paper from The Asia Foundation. The Ookla Speedtest Global Index Report, meanwhile, said the country’s average download speed for fixed broadband connections in the first quarter of 2022 was only 52.16 megabytes per second (Mbps) compared to the global average of 113.25 Mbps as of September 2021.
Through satellite-based technology, the Internet Service Provider ISP) sends fiber internet signal to a satellite in space. The satellite dish is connected to the modem of the user, which then connects the user to the internet.
The proposed measure of Gatchalian allows direct access by Value-Added Service (VAS) Providers and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to all satellite systems to promote the expansion of satellite-based networks. It also allows government organizations, public and non-profit private institutions, volunteer organizations engaged in education, health, finance, agriculture, environmental management, climate change management, disaster preparedness, and crisis response to own and operate satellite-based technology in order to aid and augment their activities.
To aid in disaster preparedness and emergency response, each local government unit (LGU) shall be required to set up a satellite-powered communication tool such as satellite phones and satellite-powered portable cell sites, among others.
The bill also broadens the mandate of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to include responsibilities such as the issuance of satellite policies and regulatory and administrative supervision over the ISPs and VAS.
“Batay sa naging karanasan natin nitong panahon ng pandemya, nakita natin kung gaano kahalagang maabot ng internet ang bawat isa sa ating mga kababayan. Kaya naman isusulong natin ang paggamit ng satellite-based technology upang mapadali ang pag-abot sa mga lugar na hindi pa konektado sa internet,” said Gatchalian.
The proposed measure also mandates the DICT to identify areas that are unserved and underserved by traditional broadband network operators and where the use of satellite-based internet can be maximized, he added.