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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        28  March 2011

Aquino to revive national broadband project

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The Aquino administration plans to issue an executive order (EO) creating a universal access fund to subsidize the cost of building broadband infrastructure in the Philippines rural areas.

Under the draft Medium Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) for 2011 to 2016, the government plans to use the spectrum user fees (SUF) paid by telecom companies to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to ensure access of broadband in rural areas.

To do this, the government will issue an EO or push for a law mandating the allocation of SUF to ensure the deployment and availability of information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure and services all over the Philippines.

NTC collects P1 billion worth of SUF a year, with the amount remitted to the national treasury. Telcos pass on the cost of the SUF to their consumers.

Data from the NTC showed that Smart Communications Inc. paid P422.24 million in SUF each year; Globe Telecom, P351.99 million; Digital Telecommunications Phils. Inc., P100.76 million; Express Telecommunications Inc., P70 million; Connectivity Unlimited Resources Enterprises Inc., P65 million; Liberty Broadcasting Network Inc. P43.22 million; Primeworld Digital Systems Inc., P25.89 million; Bayan Telecommunication Inc., P7.6 6 million; and Innove Communications Inc. P7.53 million.

The MTPDP 2011-2016 said the challenge of providing universal access in unserved and underserved areas, which the private sector consider as not “viable,” is not new.

In these areas, the government can and should play a more active role to support and encourage the private sector initiatives by providing incentive or lower risk to invest in rural and underserved areas, according to the blueprint.

An official of the NTC said the access fund will be used to subsidize the cost of communication in rural areas.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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