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A measure allowing small-town internet service providers, schools, and civic organizations to use the country’s satellite orbital to provide internet service to the countryside hurdled second reading approval at the House of Representatives.

During Tuesday’s session, the chamber passed via voice vote House Bill 9070, or the proposed Satellite-Based Technologies Promotion Act, which seeks to deregulate access to satellite-based services to make it more accessible and inclusive.

The bill directs relevant agencies to promote the development of satellite-based technologies dedicated to education and other civic causes.

It also encourages government organizations, public and non-profit private educational institutions, volunteer organizations engaged in education, environmental management, climate change management, disaster preparedness and crisis response to own and operate satellite-based technology to aid and augment their activities and be used more broadly for civic causes.

The proposed law would allow internet service providers (ISPs) and value-added services (VAS) providers to own and operate their own network using satellite technology without the need of a franchise and a provisional authority of Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

The measure provides policies on the use of satellite-based technologies as a means of making education more inclusive and more technologically-ready and the expansion of satellite-based networks, especially in rural areas and those with limited fixed or cellular mobile network connectivity.

The Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) shall be the lead agency in-charge of regulating the use of satellite-based technologies outside commercial telecommunications to allow a more developmental perspective to satellite-based systems.

The DICT likewise shall be mandated to expand access to satellite-based technologies as alternative connectivity solution by securing necessary orbital slots for prospective Philippine satellites, especially those dedicated to education and missionary internet connectivity in the countryside; as well as encouraging commercial development of technologies complementary to satellite-based technologies, especially those dedicated to education.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, author of the bill, stressed the need for satellite liberalization as it could help bring prosperity to the countryside.

“In some far-flung areas, it’s too expensive for companies to set up broadband or fiber. Satellites don’t have that problem,” he said. “Most job opportunities available in the internet do not care whether you’re in the province or in NCR (National Capital Region). That is why connecting everyone, even the farthest communities in the farthest islands, to the internet is important to me. It’s a tool for social equity.” (PNA)

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