Senator pushes satellite-based tech for Internet connectivity

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian

Determined to promote satellite-based technologies for faster Internet connectivity, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian refiled a bill envisioned to improve Internet access by expanding the existing digital infrastructure using satellite-based technologies.

Reviving his original remedial legislation now embodied in Senate Bill 814 to be known as the Satellite-Based Technologies for Internet Connectivity Act of 2022, Gatchalian originally filed it in the 18th Congress, aiming to “promote the use and development of satellite services, especially in critical areas to ensure universal access to the Internet to support e-government and the delivery of basic services, education, health, trade, finance, disaster preparedness, and public safety.”

The lawmaker lamented that use of digital technologies in the Philippines remain below its potential as 45 percent of Filipino citizens and 74 percent of public schools remain unconnected, according to the 2019 paper from The Asia Foundation. She also cited the Ookla Speedtest Global Index Report that noted the country’s average download speed for fixed broadband connections in the first quarter of 2022 was only 52.16 megabytes per second (Mbps) compared to the global average of 113.25 Mbps as of September 2021.

In a news statement, Gatchalian clarified that through satellite-based technology, the Internet service provider (ISP) sends fiber Internet signal to a satellite in space, adding the satellite dish is connected to the modem of the user, which then connects the user to the Internet.

As filed, Gatchalian’s remedial legislation allows direct access by value-added service (VAS) providers and ISPs to all satellite systems to promote the expansion of satellite-based networks. It also allows government organizations, public and non-profit private institutions, volunteer organizations engaged in education, health, finance, agriculture, environmental management, climate change management, disaster preparedness, and crisis response to own and operate satellite-based technology in order to aid and augment their activities.

In order to aid in disaster preparedness and emergency response, each local government unit (LGU) shall be required to set up a satellite-powered communication tool such as satellite phones and satellite-powered portable cell sites, among others.

The Gatchalian bill, at the same time, also broadens the mandate of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to include responsibilities, such as the issuance of satellite policies and regulatory and administrative supervision over the ISPs and VAS.

“Recalling our previous experience in time of pandemic, we saw the value of Internet connectivity which is why we are pushing the use of satellite-based technology as we experienced,” the senator said, noting that “the proposed measure also mandates DICT to identify areas that are unserved and underserved by traditional broadband network operators and where the use of satellite-based Internet can be maximized.”

Image credits: Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN



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