Duterte to revive NBN, ZTE keen to help again

Telecom stakeholders, activists and advocates at the First PH Telecoms Summit on March 9, 2017, PICC, Pasay City. Photo by Melba Bernad of Upgrade Magazine

MANILA — A decade after a plan to interconnect government offices throughout the country via the Internet ended up in a massive corruption scandal that nearly toppled the Arroyo administration, such a plan is now being revived by the Duterte administration.

Department of ICT Secretary Rodolfo Salalima confirmed that President Rodrigo Duterte greenlighted their plan to establish a National Broadband Program or NBP.

Salalima said his office will undertake stakeholder consultations and submit a more detailed rollout plan to the president afterwards.

If things go as planned, the project timeline calls for selection of project proponents by early next year.

Aware of the ghosts from the past, Salalima has vowed to make the program as open as possible.

“I will be transparent. The blueprint including the details will be put online and I want the citizenry to make inputs to that,” Salalima said.

Salalima said at least three Chinese firms have expressed interest in the plan.

ZTE, the original proponent 10 years ago before the $329 million plan was scrapped, told InterAksyon they are keen to participate.

“We believe we will be able to give the government the sufficient support to realize the NBP plan,” said Leon Guanghai, ZTE vice president for sales.

ZTE said it could tweak its previous proposal, given technological changes that have happened.

“We all know that, around 10 years ago, the government already initiated a similar plan, where ZTE participated,” Guanghai said. “What I can see is that the idea or the application is pretty much the same, where the only difference is that the technology has evolved.”

Another Chinese firm, Huawei, is also willing to join.

“By participating in this project, we will also be supporting all the different industries,” said Tan Kuan Thye, Huawei marketing director.

Under the draft program, the NBP will initially provide entry-level speed of two Mbps to government offices and missionary areas, which will then be ramped up to 10 Mbps by 2020.

Aside from interconnecting government units, the plan also envisions propagation of government e-services to rural areas, such as distance learning, tele-health, and tele-commuting platforms.