THE Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has urged local government units (LGUs) and homeowners’ associations to ease the permitting process to support the accelerated rollout of cell sites and other ICT infrastructure projects on the back of the public’s clamor for better internet connection during this lockdown period.

DICT 7 Director Leo Cipriano Urbiztondo Jr. said they are having difficulty powering up the country’s internet connectivity as some areas are not keen on allowing cell site towers to be erected in their locality due to various concerns such as radiation exposure.

Globe Telecom said before Covid-19, the LGUs took the brunt for the slow rollout due to the complex permitting process. A good number of LGUs actually refuse the entry of any telecom construction due to various reasons.

But the various stages of government mandated lockdowns across the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the need to improve the country’s internet connection as more people and businesses turn online for work, business, learning and entertainment while at home.

“The internet has become an essential part of our new way of life, especially with the prospects of the new normal like work from home and e-learning. It is imperative especially in these times of the new normal that we start addressing the challenges in building cell sites so we can provide the first world internet quality we all aspire for,” said lawyer Froilan Castelo, general counsel at Globe.

The DICT said there’s a need for LGUs and homeowners’ associations to cooperate in addressing the people’s need for better connectivity and high-quality ICT services. It hoped that ICT infrastructure providers will be fostered at the local level to fast-track the rollout and construction of much-needed infrastructure during this Covid-19 pandemic.

“Internet access has become an essential utility in our collective efforts to significantly improve the public health situation,” Secretary Gregorio Honasan II said in a statement. “With that in mind, we should keep working together for the continued improvement of our internet connectivity infrastructure.

Specifically, the DICT 7 is planning to allow teachers and students to use their Innovation Hub and Tech4Ed Centers for business and learning continuity during this lockdown period.

“We have been conducting webinars for the new normal strategic program. Soon, if the government eases restrictions on mobility, teachers and students can use our facilities for their lessons,” Urbiztondo told SunStar Cebu.

Globe, meanwhile, appealed to LGUs especially the barangay leaders “to rethink the way they view permits to enable building the right amount of infrastructure to best serve their constituents.”

“Homeowners associations are likewise a source of delay and inevitable loss of connectivity. Homeowners should stop using arguments about health risks because for many years these arguments have already been laid to rest by the World Health Organization, the same institution we rely on today with the ongoing pandemic,” Castelo said.

Cell sites in PH

According to Tower Xchange’s 2019 3rd quarter report, there are at least 17,850 cell sites in the Philippines. Vietnam in compa-rison has more than 90,000 cell sites.

Moreover, latest data from We Are Social showed that internet penetration in the Philippines stood at 67 percent in January this year. The country now has 73 million users on social media. This brings the users per site ratio at 4,089 users that are sharing one cell site. (With PR)