PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has signed a law renewing the franchise of local telecommunications firm Now Telecom Company Inc., formerly known as Infocom Communications Network Inc., for another 25 years.

Duterte on Thursday, February 22, signed Republic Act (RA) 10972, which allows Now Telecom, a company controlled by the Velarde family, to build, operate, and maintain telecommunications services in the Philippines, other countries and other territories, "including outer space as public may warrant."

The law was signed amid Duterte's goal to break the PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom's duopoly. Now Telecom earlier expressed intent to become the third major player in the country's telecommunications industry.

Under the newly-signed law, Now Telecom shall provide improved telecommunications services, such as wired, wireless, fixed, cellular, mobile, among others.

RA 10972 provides that the grantee is mandated to secure from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity or the appropriate permits and licenses.

The NTC, for its part, shall have the authority to regulate the construction and operation of Now Telecom's telecommunications systems.

The charges and rates for the grantee's telecommunications services shall be subject to the approval of the NTC or its legal successor.

The law directs the Now Telecom to operate and maintain all its stations, lines, cables, systems and equipment "in a satisfactory manner at all times."

Now Telecom shall also ensure to improve and extend its services in remote areas and in hazard- and typhoon-prone places that shall be determined by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, in coordination with the NTC. (SunStar Philippines)