Olongapo Telecom & Information Technology

Saturday, August 04, 2007

New House ICT committee chair to focus on NTC, push DICT

By Erwin Oliva - INQUIRER.net

CEBU CITY, Philippines -- The new chairman of the House of Representatives’ committee on information and communications technology (ICT) wants to revisit the mandate of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

Catanduanes Representative Joseph Santiago who was designated as the new House chairman on ICT, said Thursday he intends to revisit the 1995 Public Telecommunications Policy Act to make the NTC a more "professional" government agency, similar to the US Federal Communications Commission.

Santiago was a former head of the NTC

"We want fixed terms for the commissioners of the NTC, while making the agency more independent. I know this because I was there," Santiago said in a telephone interview.

NTC's regulatory powers also need to become more flexible to the changes in the telecommunications industry, which is now merging with the information technology industry.

The NTC chairman and the two commissioners are all appointed by the President.

He cited the experience of Australia, which has been adjusting its telecommunications laws as new technologies emerge.

"Together with the industry, I hope we can craft general guidelines for the amendment to the 1995 Public Telecommunications Policy Act," he added.

"We have to update the law, and keep its provisions as broad as possible, for instance, with respect to treatment of potential new technologies, and leave the particulars entirely up to the NTC," Santiago said.

"For example, right now, there is ambiguity whether this or that entity should be treated as a service or a value-added service (VAS) provider, and whether this or that function or offering should be regarded as a VAS or not," he said.

"Yet, the truth of the matter is, there are simply too many new technologies now that Congress did not even conceive of when it passed the law 12 years ago," Santiago said. "So we may have to reshape the law precisely to keep it totally open to new technologies."

Santiago said he will also push for the creation of Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

He said the current Commission on Information and Communications Technology is a "toothless" agency, which has no "clear mandate by legislation."

The Catanduanes solon vowed to transform the NTC into "a more potent quasi-judicial regulator and a dynamic driver of ICT growth."

Meanwhile, Santiago said he will soon call on a public hearing on the controversial national broadband network project of the Department of Transportation and Communications.

"Instead of focusing on the players in the project, I want to look into the idea if government really needs to create this network or we would just leave this to the private sector," he said.

He said that some government agencies are now operating their own networks.

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