Can you imagine living in this world without the internet?
Back in the 70s and even in the 80s most people were still living an analogue and paper-based life, no smart phones nor laptops that nowadays are virtual extensions of our bodies for communications and every kind of transaction.
Since then, the pace of innovations in information and communications technology has been exponentially accelerating and its extensive integration as a vital tool to survive the global pandemic has established accessibility to digital technologies as an indispensable economic enabler.
The pandemic sparked a societal shift to digital technologies and exposed our unreadiness in terms of digital infrastructure and accessibility to fast and reliable broadband internet connectivity.
Unlike other economies in the region where governments aggressively spend to upgrade and expand their telecommunications networks, here in the Philippines, investments are left to the private telcos.
To be fair, the telcos have been ramping up their capital spends to expand their networks and have been improving quality and coverage of services despite the myriad of bureaucratic challenges and obsolete policies that need to be updated to become more compatible to the dynamic and fast evolving nature of digital innovations.
One important policy reform that’s connected to expanding connectivity is the difficulty in installing last mile connectivity to the homes and workplaces of privately owned property developments such as gated subdivisions, high rise commercial offices and residential condominiums, and even malls.
Apparently, telcos and Internet Service Providers have been encountering difficulties in installing their wireless and high-speed fiber optic networks to service consumer demand in these privately owned areas because of so many restrictions imposed by the property administrators.
Telcos are even being charged to pay for lease space that their equipment needed to connect the homeowners or tenants needing the wireless or wired connection to connect to the internet.
As a consumer advocate, having access to fast internet connection is as indispensable as water and electricity.
Broadband services should be considered a basic utility and a standard facility in any property development.
In an earlier statement of our co-convenor in consumer advocacy group CitizenWatch Philippines, Atty. Tim Abejo rightly pointed out that internet connectivity must be accessible to all and at least at par with global speed standards.
“To keep up with all our online activities —fast broadband services are now a basic necessity. If deprived of this, the quality of life and the productivity of entire communities, not just individuals, organizations or households, will be seriously stymied,” Atty Abejo said.
The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is already responding to this issue and is supporting House Bill 4472, or the Housing Development Digital Connectivity bill sponsored by Isabela Rep. Faustino Dy V.
The proposed legislation will require developers to provide space for future infrastructure and other digital amenities just like adequate and rent-free space is provided for water and poser connections.
In a published statement, DICT Secretary Ivan Uy said that he fully supports amending the National Building Code to ensure the provision of telecommunications by allocating space for network infrastructure in housing and high-rise building projects across the Philippines.
“You won’t have instances where when you go inside the building, you go inside the elevator, and you have no signal. You go to the parking underground; you have no signal. Those buildings were never designed for telco. I think that should be included from the very onset. When you design the building, it should be integrated there,” Secretary Uy said.
The integration of digital infrastructure by aligning with the telcos so that there are no dead spots in a real estate project is actually a strong marketing selling point.
No one wants to stay in a place where you cannot connect to the internet wirelessly either via a local wi-fi network or mobile data service.
Whenever we go out to a bar or restaurant, the first thing we check is if there is good mobile phone signal. Business and leisure travelers all require fast internet access in hotels.
For older buildings that were built when the dial-up land line was the only telco service available, it would be best to just work with the telcos so the residents of their properties can be quickly connected to the best broadband service of their choice.
Making things harder for telcos to do their mandate to expand their services is a disservice to the people that property management is supposed to serve.
As convenor of CitizenWatch Philippines, we express our strong support for the DICT’s legislative initiative to address this last mile deployment issue by amending the National Building Code to become responsive to the demands of consumers in this emerging digital economy where we must endeavor together not just to survive but to inclusively thrive.