THE Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is looking at partnering with private companies for fiber connectivity projects in rural communities.

“We need to connect more provinces and municipalities. The partnership can be with private companies, or it can be a partnership with local government units,” DICT Assistant Secretary Philip A. Varilla said during the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines (EJAP) Economic Forum 2022.

Mr. Varilla said partnerships with the private sector will make the implementation of broadband projects “easier and faster.”

However, he noted public-private partnerships for “geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas,” may not be viable. Instead, he said these areas will be serviced by satellite technology, which requires less investment than fiber connectivity.

Overall, the department is “initially looking at P3 billion for 5,000 locations,” Mr. Varilla said.

At the same time, he said that the first phase of the government’s national broadband program, which covers 12 provinces in Luzon, is now 73.56% complete. The project will be completed by next year.

The National Telecommunications Commission, an attached agency of the DICT, recently approved the registration of Starlink Internet Services Philippines, Inc., a subsidiary of Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX).

Starlink Internet Services Philippines is expected to offer high-speed low latency satellite internet service with download speeds between 100 megabits per second (Mbps) and 200 Mbps to Filipinos, according to the DICT.

Mr. Varilla said the department is now identifying the remote locations that will be covered by Starlink’s service.

The DICT reported on Monday that three remote islands in Zamboanga are now connected to the broadband program. These are Sacol, a geographically isolated island that houses four barangays, and nearby islands Tigtabon and Pangapuyan.

The EJAP Economic Forum was co-presented by Metro Pacific Investments Corp. and PLDT, Inc. — Arjay L. Balinbin