THE Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said it is proposing a P13.49-billion budget to implement the national broadband program next year, much bigger than this year’s budget of P296.46 million.

The DICT said the funds will support improvements to digital connectivity.

The department is proposing a P46.65-billion budget overall for next year to fund expanded digital connectivity and access, digital government, digital education and workforce, digital cities and provinces, and cybersecurity.

“The call for faster and more accessible internet connectivity has never been more immediate as we aim to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis while preparing for the demands of the new normal,” DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II was quoted as saying in a statement Wednesday.

The national broadband program has six components: the national fiber optic cable backbone, cable landing stations, accelerated tower build, accelerated fiber build, satellite overlay, and broadband delivery management service.

“The P13.4 billion earmarked for the national broadband program in 2021 envisions increased public reach of connectivity services by developing and enhancing our digital infrastructures,” Mr. Honasan said.

“The establishment of a national fiber optic backbone is a very pressing matter, not just in light of the public health emergency, but for the sake of national competitiveness. We are putting in place these strategies to reinvigorate the country’s participation in the global digital economy to achieve our vision of a Digital Philippines,” he added.

The department released last month rules governing the shared use of telecommunications towers.

The common-tower policy means more than one telco can use a single tower, thereby increasing the number of subscribers being served by each tower.

The DICT had pushed the concept of tower sharing to improve tower density, which is said to be one of the lowest in the region at 4,000 subscribers per tower. — Arjay L. Balinbin