Internet connectivity must be essential building component in the National Building Code  | Inquirer Opinion
Sharp Edges

Internet connectivity must be essential building component in the National Building Code 

/ 05:14 AM May 21, 2024

In this digital age, access to reliable internet connectivity is no longer a luxury but a necessity. 

From education and commerce to healthcare and entertainment, the internet has become an integral part of daily life. It has immensely become life-enabling, so much so that the United Nations has declared it a human right

Yet despite its critical importance, millions of Filipinos still face barriers to accessing high-speed internet. This is aggravated inside shopping malls, entertainment areas and new real estate developments where telcos’ electronic signals are weak, and oftentimes unavailable.

The Philippines continues to languish globally when it comes to internet speeds, slipping five places last year to 86th out of 220 countries and territories in average download speeds in the 2023 Worldwide Broadband Speed League index. Connectivity is also among the most expensive in Southeast Asia at about US$432.04 annually, according to the International Telecommunication Union. 


This could be traced to many factors. The telco business is capital intensive. And in the Philippines, it’s chiefly the private sector that has been building up the country’s internet infrastructure.  To put this in perspective, the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s (DICT) total funding for internet infrastructure was only Php7.6 billion for six years from 2018 to 2024., an amount that pales in comparison to private sector spending. Globe Telecoms alone spent a total Php265 billion in capital expenditure and Php236 billion in operational expenses in the past three years to upgrade its network and contribute to enhancing the country’s digital infrastructure. 

Amid this considerable spending, telcos clearly deserve a break. Take for example the imposition of lease charges for in-building solutions (IBS)— equipment that are installed inside buildings, shopping malls and other real estate developments to ensure quality connectivity. Currently, fees for installation of such equipment are unregulated and arbitrary.   

These fees are not just blatantly unnecessary, they are ironic and nonsensical.  For why should the telco be the one to pay a customer so it could deliver the service building owners themselves need? It’s like a family asking a water concessionaire to pay for space in their house to install water pipes.  Indeed, even while connectivity has proven its indispensability in day-to-day life, it is still relegated to being an option only when it comes to infrastructure. Unlike other utilities such as electricity and water, which are readily integrated into building infrastructure without additional charges, telecommunications companies are still burdened with exorbitant fees.  

Thus, while already doing the heavy lifting in developing the necessary infrastructure to attain the country’s digitalization goals, telcos have been left with no choice but to do the heavy spending. This is not only unjust; this also disincentivizes the telcos’ drive to advance connectivity in the country. 


In the end, this stifles innovation and economic growth. By perpetuating this unfair practice, developers and real property owners are effectively impeding progress and hindering efforts to bridge the digital divide.

To address this pressing challenge, urgent action is needed at both the legislative and regulatory levels. Proposed amendments to the National Building Code must unequivocally classify telecommunications facilities, including IBS, as essential components of building infrastructure. Legislation must also be enacted to prohibit developers and real property owners from imposing exorbitant lease charges for connectivity services, thereby safeguarding the interests of consumers, and fostering a more equitable digital ecosystem.


Furthermore, policymakers must recognize that connectivity is not merely a commodity but a public good that underpins economic development, social cohesion, and democratic participation. Access to high-speed internet is not just a convenience; it is a catalyst for innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic empowerment. Eliminating barriers to connectivity can unlock a myriad of benefits for businesses, consumers, and society.

It is incumbent upon all stakeholders—government, industry, civil society, and the private sector—to come together and prioritize the urgent task of eliminating lease charges for in-building solutions. If we are to achieve our digitalization goals, this is an imperative. Otherwise, providing universal access to reliable, affordable, and high-speed internet services will remain a dream.

Three main reasons behind Senate’s quick change of leadership 

The quick but expected removal of former Senate President Migz Zubiri is generating wild conspiracy theories in political circles as to what was its real reason. Reports said fifteen senator-colleagues voted to remove him while two in the minority group, Sens. Koko Pimentel and Risa Hontiveros “abstained”.

The surprising change in leadership came after Zubiri announced his “resignation” at the plenary yesterday.  But before reporters, Zubiri hinted he lost his post because “he failed to follow instructions from the powers that be”. “I did not accept the Senate Presidency just to let it go down”, he said tearfully. 

Escudero’s acceptance remarks was also cryptic saying there is only one team in the Senate, that is Team Pilipinas, not “team ko, team niya or team natin” (not my team, your team, and our team but only Team Philippines).   On the question by reporters if Malacañang was involved, Escudero said he does not know, “Hindi ako ang kinausap”.

There are several issues floating around on Zubiri’s ouster. Barely one year upon his election, coup rumors went public in March that year. This was followed in June and again January this year.  

The first reason, Malacanang and the House of Representatives are dismayed at Zubiri’s low output, with numerous priority bills, agreed upon by LEDAC, but remain unacted in the Senate for the past two years. This included, of course, the slow approval of Maharlika Fund, and the turtle paced moves on the charter change proposals. 

Second, unidentified senators were “greatly disappointed” on the released fund allocation for each member’s pet projects in the 2024 GAA. Insiders say, other senators, got only half of their proposals while the favored others got the full amount. 

And third reason that broke the camel’s back was the Zubiri’s soft handling of Sen. Bato de la Rosa’s public hearings on the PDEA leak controversy. The investigation in aid-in-legislation allowed ex-PDEA agent Jonathan Morales to drag the name of the President, and actress Maricel Soriano as drug users as well as publicly insulted Sen. Jinggoy’s conviction.

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There are talks of a countercoup, but chances are nil. At this point, it is clear as day that majority of Zubiri’s colleagues all voted to end his two-year leadership for varying reasons that are both personal and professional to each senator. 


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