PLDT Inc. and wireless subsidiary Smart Communications asked the government to rationalize regulatory fees to facilitate network rollouts in unserved and underserved areas of the country.
Roy Ibay, Smart vice president and regulatory affairs, said the new legislation that aims to genuinely address or bridge the digital divide should ensure that data facilities and fiber find their way to serve municipalities in areas that need adequate coverage.
"If the goal of this bill is to ensure universal internet or data coverage, it must avoid the trap of not setting out the objective in the law and ensure that data facilities or the much-needed fiber finds its way in the unserved and underserved areas," Ibay said.
Ibay said regulatory and radio spectrum fees also play a role in ensuring quicker rollouts.
"To be able to provide equitable and faster access to our services in priority rollout areas, there must be affordable and reasonable regulatory and radio spectrum fees," Ibay said, adding that the prevalence of arbitrary regulatory fees imposed by some local government units, such as tower fees, inspection fees and audit fees continue to be "major roadblocks for ICT growth."
Ibay said a uniform spectrum users fee based on a per kHz per population would encourage the rollout, instead of the prevailing wireless broadband formula that discourages and punishes deployment of more wireless facilities in using a per station, per kilohertz computation.
"Last year alone, Smart spent P2.4 billion on fees, which could have been spent on actual physical facilities to improve telecom services," he said.
PLDT and Smart's relentless network rollout across the country form a large part of PLDT's capital expenditures, which totaled P460.8 billion in the last ten years.
PLDT operates the country's most extensive fiber infrastructure, at more than 511,000 kilometers. This also supports Smart's mobile networks, which now cover 96 percent of the population from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi.