Amending 1931 radio law seen as key to improving connectivity

NATIONAL ECONOMIC and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said he will push to amend the law regulating radio communications (Act No. 3846) to help improve digital connectivity.

On the sidelines of a forum hosted by NEDA and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) on Wednesday, Mr. Balisacan told reporters that amending outdated laws on connectivity should be a priority.

“I want to get more data so that we can present to the Cabinet, to the President, to the LEDAC (Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council), the urgency of doing this,” he said.  

Act No. 3846 has been in place for 92 years. It created the Radio Control Division at the Bureau of Posts, under the general supervision of the Secretary of Commerce and Communications.

During the forum, Scott Minehane, a consultant to USAID’s Better Access and Connectivity (BEACON) project, cited the need to reform radio spectrum management.

Spectrum management is based on the 1931 law, as well as the Public Telecommunications Policy Act of 1995, when wireless technology was mainly used for radio broadcasts.

“These laws limit the use of spectrum to enfranchised entities, which require entrants, even those that use new types of internet technology, to make investments in a traditional network,” Mr. Minehane said.

“The outdated provisions contained in those laws continue to limit the country’s ability to maximize the benefits and uses of new wireless technologies such as 5G and future 6G (in 2030) as well as to free up or reallocate idle or new spectrum,” he said.

The digital economy accounted for 9.4% or P2.08 trillion of gross domestic product in 2022, up from P1.87 trillion in 2021, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

“By sticking to an administrative approach in assigning spectrum, the government continues to miss out on the opportunity to generate substantial revenue from having a more competitive assignment process,” Mr. Minehane said.

He said adopting best-practice spectrum management — which adheres to the principles of efficiency, transparency, and non-discrimination — would bring significant benefits to the economy.

Mr. Minehane added spectrum is considered a limited public resource that must be managed efficiently to boost digital and economic transformation.

Several bills on spectrum management have been filed in Congress but these have all failed to gain traction. — Keisha B. Ta-asan

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