In June 2016, the UN Human Rights council declared that internet access is now a basic human right. Despite this declaration, the plea of residents for mobile and internet services are falling on deaf ears – especially when homeowner’s associations are concerned. The adamant refusal of HOAs and even barangays to allow telecom facilities in the form of cell sites, ODAs, and fiber optic cables continue to deprive residents of much needed connectivity and reliable mobile services.
Aside from having to deal with villages that reject cell site proposals, Globe Telecom is also having permitting difficulties in establishing right-of- way in subdivisions relating to the deployment of broadband fiber optics in line with its initiative of improving the state of wireline internet in the country.
According to Globe Chief Information and Technology Officer Gil Genio, the company is experiencing permitting issues for right-of-way and cell site deployment in the following villages: Corinthian Gardens, Dasmarinas Village, Magallanes, Las Vista, Greenhills North, Corinthian Hills, Alpha Village, Pentagon Village, Capitol Hills Golf Subdivision, Xavierville 1, Loyola Grand Villas, Montgomery Place, Valle Verde 3, Valle Verde 4, Ayala Heights, Capitol Homes, Vista Real 1 & 2, UP Campus, Don Antonio Royale Estate Subdivision, Woodside Homes, Rolling Hills Subdivision, Hobart Homes, Don Antonio Heights, Alta Vista Village and Xavierville 3, Hillsborough, Forbes Park, Bel-Air, San Lorenzo, Green Meadows, Fruitville, JEE Village, BF Homes, Merville, South Bay Garden, Concepcion, Modesta, Jaybee, St. Mary’s Subdivision, Vista Real Classica Subdivision, Meteor Homes, Valle Verde 1, Kings Vill Executive Village, Smile Citihomes Condominium, Thomas Homes, and Vista Rio.
“Similar to the permitting difficulties that we encounter with our cell site proposals, Globe is confronted with challenges in establishing right-of-way for the deployment of broadband fiber optics. We remain optimistic, however, that with government support, we will soon be able to work out an arrangement with HOAs concerned,” Genio said, citing the recent signing of an inter-government memorandum of agreement on the issue.
He revealed some of these HOAs are too slow in addressing the company’s right-of-way applications, effectively tying the telecommunication provider’s hand in addressing customer demand for high-speed internet service. Others reject right-of-way application as they are against construction or installation of structures within their respective villages. Still, others demand that Globe work out a co-location arrangement with Meralco for the joint use of its electric poles. Most of the time, however, Meralco isn’t amendable to such an arrangement, Genio said.
Genio further lamented that some HOAs unnecessarily favor a particular service provider by denying permit applications made by Globe on the basis that residents are already served by the other provider. “By standing in the way of our efforts to build more cell sites, these HOAs effectively favor one service provider over the others, thus, are in complicity in monopolistic practices. This is contrary to public service laws since Globe must comply with the same public service laws if a customer asks for service,” Genio said.
Permitting challenges with various HOAs prompted Globe to seek support of its customers residing in uncooperative villages through an open letter published in major broadsheets. Globe emphasized that “given the enormity of the task of providing reliable internet access and sufficient bandwidth to support your evolving digital lifestyle, it has become imperative for us, your service provider, to seek your support so that we can work together to secure approvals and clearances from your HOAs and barangays.”
“With twin issues of permits and right of way going on for several years now, you as residents and members of your respective homeowner’s associations are held equally responsible in ensuring your areas are covered by mobile signal and internet connectivity,” Globe said in the letter.
Globe last year launched an initiative to create an internet superhighway by rolling out 2 million home broadband lines with speed of at least 10 Mbps by 2020. Such initiative is in support of its commitment to improve fixed internet in the Philippines. Globe rolled out in 2016 over 260,000 home broadband lines with plans to deploy 400,000 ultra-fast broadband lines by end 2017.
To help resolve right-of-way issues that hamper deployment of fiber optics in certain areas, the Department of Information and Communications Technology, Department of Public Works and Highways and the National Telecommunications Commission signed at the recent Telecom Summit a memorandum of agreement relating to right-of-way concerns.
Under the MOA, the technical working group will review and recommend appropriate revisions or amendments on existing guidelines on the use of right-of-way, particularly the construction and establishment of telecommunication infrastructure and facilities such as fiber optic cables, cell sites, and other similar infrastructure and amenities belonging to mobile phone and internet service providers and which are situated over or underneath the government’s right-of-way, with the aim of making telecommunication services available to more Filipinos.
Specifically, the right-of-way technical working group will propose amendments to applicable rules and regulations with a view to effectively address issues and problems that beset telecommunication companies whenever they roll out ICT infrastructure and facilities. The proposal will be submitted to the DPWH for its consideration.