THE Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said it will work to make internet service cheaper and faster after the end of quarantine, which has accustomed the public to transacting more online.

“To have less or inexpensive connectivity at the highest speed is our target, and we are doing something about that by encouraging the small players (like small telcos, and cable TV operators in the provinces) to connect homes to the internet,” Communications Undersecretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. told BusinessWorld in a recent phone interview.

He said the department will be lowering spectrum user fees to enable small internet service providers to expand in the provinces.

“We will encourage them by lowering the spectrum user fees, so that the spectrum is going to be used for the internet or for WiFi,” he said.

Kasi ngayon ang spectrum user fees (Right now the spectrum user fees) are the same as those paid by the big telco companies. ’Yung mga small telcos whose subscribers are only about 1,000 or 2,000, patawan mo ng P100 million a year ’yan ay talagang di sila makapag-operate (If you charge the small telcos with 1,000 or 2,000 subscribers a P100 million fee, they will not be able to operate), but if you lower that they can add more connectivity to the home,” he added.

He noted that under the so-called “new normal,” almost all transactions will be done online.

Talagang ICT ang nagpapagalaw sa lahat (ICT is helping everything move), so we must be able to strengthen our capabilities to do transactions in the virtual world,” he said.

“We recognize the new norm of our society. People now, if they can work from home and if their companies allow that, so ito na ngayon ang bagong norm (this is the new norm), and (students) are now not going to school as they are actually having classes at home, so ito ’yung dapat naming i-address (and this must be addressed) by increasing the connectivity to the home,” he added.

He said the rollout of new cell sites is ongoing despite the government-imposed lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Ang problema lang ngayon nag-slow down ang pag-import ng mga materials. It slows down kasi may restrictions sa movement, pero tuloy-tuloy pa rin (Imports are a hurdle because of the restrictions on movement, but otherwise it is proceeding),” he said.

Mr. Rio also said the department has yet to release the “common tower policy” which will govern the shared use of telecommunications towers nationwide.

The concept of tower sharing is being pushed by the DICT to improve tower density, which it said is one of the lowest in the region at 4,000 subscribers per tower. Allowing common towers means more than one telco can use a single tower, thereby increasing the number of subscribers being served by each tower. — Arjay L. Balinbin