Economic managers have set their sights on lowering the cost of Internet access in the post-pandemic economy while also seeking to minimize online fraud and cybercrime.

In a briefing Friday, Acting Socio-economic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said the economic team is supporting the Open Access in Data Transmission bill, which seeks to lower barriers to entry in the telecommunications industry to pave the way for better and cheaper Internet.

“What we are after here is the lowest possible price for the best possible service. By promoting the open access for data and internet, we are actually wanting the most coverage that can be felt by all the barangays that have not been able to connect well,” Mr. Chua said.

NEDA Undersecretary Rosemarie G. Edillon said a challenge for new companies wanting to join the broadband industry is that clients already subscribed to the telco incumbents would prefer to stay with one service provider.

“We see it (the measure) as a way in reducing the barriers to entry because… some of the subscribers to another telco would be discouraged from switching to another provider because they don’t want the hassle of changing their phone numbers, having to inform all their friends and… customers. So it actually presents a barrier to entry and we want that to be not a problem, but that would require this legislation,” Ms. Edillon said at the same briefing.

She said limited competition in the industry is discouraging innovation.

She said Philippine broadband in 2019 was ranked among the slowest but most expensive services in ASEAN.

Separately, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said Friday that the government is taking a closer look at the proliferation of cybercrime during the pandemic.

Mr. Dominguez said with more Filipinos making online transactions, the authorities “expect a spike in cybercrime.”

“The PNP (Philippine National Police) & DoJ (Department of Justice have been alerted & have assured me that they have upgraded their capacity to detect, investigate & prosecute cybercrime,” he told reporters via Viber.

In her presentation, NEDA’s Ms. Edillon said the Philippines had a broadband penetration rate of 17% in 2018, while 80% of Filipinos had access to 3G mobile techonolgy.

“Now, there’s promise because the market is still very very huge. There are so there’s still so many without telecommunication operators so there’s actually still huge demand and we can actually leverage this,” she said.

BCiting the National Information and Communications Technology Household survey, she said 96% and 91.5% of barangays in Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) regions have no telecommunications towers.

Senators Ralph G. Recto and Grace S. Poe filed Senate Bill No. 45 or the proposed Open Acess in Data Transimission Act in July 2019. — Beatrice M. Laforga