Why internet access has become a human right – Manila Bulletin

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Anna Mae Lamentillo

Imagine stepping back in time to two years ago in 2020 – when the government imposed lockdowns due to the global pandemic, closing international borders, limiting travel to its own city, disrupted schools and businesses , all other non-essential establishments temporarily closed — but without internet access. It would have been twice the tragedy.

Internet access has enabled the government to disseminate information, whether related to Covid-19 or not, to as many citizens as possible in the shortest possible time. This has allowed companies to make working from home an option and keep savings afloat. This allowed people to communicate with almost anyone even when they were locked up in their homes.

But probably one of the most crucial is that the internet has allowed children to continue learning through virtual school sessions. Without the Internet, our young people would have suffered from at least two years of learning delays. This would have been detrimental to their development, especially for very young children.

In the digital age and in the midst of a pandemic, access to the Internet is almost synonymous with access to education. Because while there are other learning modalities, such as using print modules, virtual classrooms come closest to face-to-face learning because they allow for student-teacher interaction. Moreover, the World Wide Web is a vast library of information, accessible with a single click.

The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR) has recognized that “access to the Internet is a human right”, stressing that “better access to the Internet means greater freedom of information, and freedom of information is one of our human rights”.

In a 2021 policy brief from the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS), he said that “despite extensive cell phone signal coverage and mobile device ownership, the use of Internet in the country remains weak due to poor and expensive internet connectivity and inadequate digital infrastructure. , especially outside the NCR.

This policy brief has analyzed the digital divide using data from the National ICT Household Survey (NICTHS), which was conducted by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the Philippine Institute for Statistical Research and Training. The survey found that while cellular signal reaches 92% of barangays surveyed (with 3G technology prevalent in rural areas), only 12% have access to free Wi-Fi (of which 70% is provided by the government). Moreover, only 18% of households in the country have an Internet connection. The majority of households without an internet connection cited the high cost and unavailability of internet service in their area as the main barriers to access.

While the DICT has prioritized the rollout of its digital connectivity programs, such as the National Broadband Program (NBP) and the Free Wi-Fi for All program, there is an immediate need to address the inadequate ICT infrastructure. , which has widened the digital divide, to guarantee affordable and stable access to the Internet for all.

Fortunately, the enactment of the amended Public Service Act (PSA), which allows up to 100% foreign ownership of public services in the country, now allows the country to secure new investment and market opportunities.

The signing of the PSA was also the deciding factor for Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX) entry into the local market.

SpaceX’s constellation of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite networks called Starlink can improve internet access in unserved and underserved areas of the country. The company aims to have up to 42,000 satellites to be able to provide low-cost, high-speed Internet access to remote areas of the world. As of mid-2021, Starlink already includes over 1,600 satellites.

SpaceX’s Starlink will augment and complement existing broadband capabilities, enabling faster broadband speed and better connectivity, especially in areas where connectivity has been difficult or impossible.
The Philippines is expected to be the first in Southeast Asia to use Musk’s Starlink. SpaceX aims to deploy three Gateways in the first phase of their launch in the country.

The entry of SpaceX, and possibly other foreign companies, into the Philippines will increase competitive pressure in our markets. The ultimate beneficiaries will be consumers through affordable, better and wider choices of Internet service providers.

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