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Saturday, July 13, 2024

DICT poised to require independent common tower firms to build their cell sites in GIDAs

The Marcos administration is strengthening the country’s digital infostructure to boost broadband connectivity in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDAS).

Assistant Sec. Renato ‘Aboy’ Paraiso said “on instruction of DICT Sec. Ivan John Uy, the Department is poised to issue a department circular on common tower policy that would require independent cell site station builders to focus on GIDAs, or rural areas where internet connections are crucial to economic activities and online learning.

Paraiso said there are more than 50 independent common tower companies operating in the country to catch up with the 50,000 targeted cell sites for the common use of the telcos.

“We need to establish a policy that would direct them to put their investments in GIDAs… for the country to achieve a fully digitized economy as envisioned by President Marcos,” stressed Paraiso.

Strengthening the country’s digital infostructure, the DICT official explained, means increasing the foundational framework, and infrastructure that supports the creation, storage, processing, security and transmission of information.

This reportedly includes both the physical and digital components necessary for the information and communications technology systems to function effectively.

“This is where the telcos and independent common towers companies play a big role in helping the government to expedite the infostructure buildup if their cell stations will be erected in GIDAs,” said Paraiso.

Conceding that at least 65 percent of the country’s popularion is still without internet connection, Paraiso said at present only 2,374 cell sites were recorded to have been constructed by the independent common tower companies, excluding those which were not yet reported by another seven ICT firms.

He addes that the DICT is still in the process of updating the number of cell towers owned by the leading local telecom companies such as Globe, Smart-PLDT, Converge and Dito.

While the number of cellular towers in the country is far below the ideal requirement necessary for the country to attain a fully digitized economy, Paraiso has pinned hopes in the newly passed law – Republic Act 11659 – which removes restrictions on foreign ownership for telecom companies.

RA 11659, or the Public Service Act, provides that foreign nationals are allowed to own more than 50 percent of capital in public services engaged in the operation and management of critical infrastruture which includes telecommunications.

He explained that RA 11659 will provide the window for foreign capitals to get invested in telecom and related businesses like independent common tower builders.

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