TELECOM Tower Watch is calling for a new regulatory regime that could help develop a nationwide digital infrastructure to meet growing demand for fast and reliable connectivity in an emerging digital ecosystem.

In a statement, Telecom Tower Watch, which describes itself as a digital infrastructure watchdog, said Congress “must update obsolete laws and regulations to be digital ready and to be responsive to new technologies that are essential in developing a thriving digital economy.”

It said Republic Act No. 3846, which regulates radio communications, and the proposed Open Access in Data Transmission bill if passed into law “will require telecommunications companies to secure separate franchises for voice and digital data services even when both operations utilize the same network infrastructure.”

“There should be an audit of the country’s radio frequencies and a mechanism to cancel idle franchises so that more frequencies will be available for telco players who have the track record and capacity to maximize this valuable telecommunications asset,” said the independent advocacy project of consumer group CitizenWatch Philippines.

Telecom Tower Watch also pointed to Section 16 of RA 7925 or the Public Telecommunications Policy Act, which requires a congressional franchise to operate a public telecommunications company.

“Though HB (House Bill) 8901 aims to liberalize, lower cost, and accelerate rollout urgently needed broadband infrastructure, this looming double franchise requirement is an unnecessary bureaucratic burden that must be resolved by legislators,” it said.

“Furthermore, the government must invest in strategic digital infrastructure and align its broadband plan with the private telcos. We need to maximize the potential of public infrastructure assets with ongoing private telco investments to provide the broadband connectivity we need for a sustained economic recovery beyond this pandemic crisis,” it added.

Telecom Tower Watch said the implementation of the National Broadband Plan needs adequate funding from the government and should be a top priority in the national budget for 2022.

In partnership with the Department of Information and Telecommunications (DICT), the group is pushing for the fast expansion of the fast expansion of an integrated national digital infrastructure.

It quoted DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II as saying, “The DICT supports any policies aimed at spurring the growth of information and communications technology in the country.”

“As the country transitions to the new normal, it is high time that we update our laws and policies to keep up with the digital times,” he said.