Internet speed can’t catch up as classes start in August – NTC-XI

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 23 June) – With the opening of classes fast approaching, enhancing internet capacity in the region remains a challenge, especially in far-flung areas, despite the call for telecommunication companies to improve their connectivity services, an official of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC)-Davao said on Monday.

Badjao children learn the alphabet in Davao City. MindaNews file photo by ERWIN MASCARINAS

NTC-XI Director Nelson Cañete pointed out that in remote areas, many only have 2G signals, which he said “can only do call and text” and none of the social media applications, not even email.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones recently announced that there will be no face-to-face classes for the students until such time that the vaccine against COVID-19 could be made available to the public.

She said that the blended learning crafted by the agency under its Basic Education-Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP) – which would utilize the use of radio, television, modular, and online learning – is currently being prepared before the opening of classes on August.

But Jenielito Atillo, spokesperson of the Department of Education (DepEd) in the Davao Region, said in a previous interview that the use of online platform may be beneficial for the majority of those who are in the urbanized areas.

Those in far-flung areas of the region, he said, will have to opt for the non-digitized alternative learning platforms as the internet and highly sophisticated gadgets are not available on their end.

Cañete admitted that majority of the people cannot yet “feel” the adjustments made by the telcos in their internet services in consideration with the COVID-19 crisis as more have shifted to using the online platform in their work to avoid direct contact with many people.

He said that the telcos need to do more expansion work.

“Telcos operate as a business,” Cañete noted. “So why would it build towers in the mountains where there are no people?”

He pointed out that the telcos’ franchise has the stipulation that they serve all parts of the country. “But what about the mountains in Mawab [in Davao de Oro]? Isn’t that part of the Philippines? Why don’t they have signal there?” Cañete lamented.

The telcos, he said, are mainly looking at “return on investment,” that is why they install more cell sites in areas where there are many people.

But Cañete acknowledged that the telcos are also having difficulty putting up more cell sites because of the varying requirements of local government units (LGUs) in terms of applying for permits to build more towers, causing delays. He cited that there have been applications that are still pending for approval after almost two years.

“This problem is not just the telcos’ nor the LGUs’ or even DepEd’s. This needs action not just by the NTC, nor the DICT [Department of Information and Communications Technology]. We may need the help of the President, or we may have to update our laws,” Cañete said. (Warren Elijah E. Valdez / MindaNews)