Deal on using fiber cables for broadband plan inked

THE Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), and the National Transmission Corp. (TransCo) signed on Friday a tripartite deal to use spare dark fiber optic cables to speed up the implementation of the government’s National Broadband Plan (NBP).

The move settles the protracted conflict between NGCP and TransCo over those cables’ ownership, and bolsters the government’s efforts to offer higher-speed internet service to Filipinos.

“This is seven years in the making,” TransCo President and CEO Melvin Matibag said at the signing. “We had a lot of arguments and disagreements, but despite all these things, we are all here together to sign the agreement.”

Under the pact, DICT acquires the right to use and/or access spare fiber optic cores (FOCs), vacant lots, tower spaces, and related facilities of the NGCP, the current concessionaire of the TransCo.-owned grid.

Total length of the dark fiber network is 6,154 kilometers, from Luzon to Mindanao.

According to acting DICT chief Eliseo Rio Jr., the deal would help bring the government’s vision of providing internet connectivity to rural areas, about 40 percent of which remain underserved or unserved by telecommunications giants PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom.

The NBP, he said, aims to put up 200,000 Wi-Fi access points throughout the country by the end of 2022.

The plan’s total cost is between P20 billion and P30 billion, Rio said last month.

The agreement comes more than a month after Matibag revealed that such a deal has been reached, albeit informally.

It also came after DICT committed in February to partner with NGCP on using the cables as the NBP’s backbone until the grid firm’s concession agreement ends in 2034.

The department launched the NBP last June with the goal of accelerating the deployment of fiber optic cables and wireless technologies to improve internet speeds and costs.

Last November, the government teamed up with social media giant Facebook to construct the Luzon Bypass Infrastructure to increase internet speeds to as fast as 2 terabits per second. It is set to be operational by the end of 2019.

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