Life has become complicated with the emergence of social media resulting to easier access to information, faster transaction of businesses, better communication world wide, among others. However, amidst the fast changes and advancement in information and communication technology (ICT), the peculiar terrain of the region is one of the challenging aspects on how the ICT companies can provide uninterrupted signals to allow the people to have sustained access to and connectivity to the global village.
To date, the promised better interconnectivity in the far flung villages in the Cordillera remains a promise that has yet to be fulfilled primarily because of alleged lesser market that involves huge investments and the reported non-cooperative local officials who seem to prioritize their personal and political interests over and above the right of the people to access to media and information, and to communicate.
Telecommunication company officials claimed bringing the fastest speed to the countryside entails huge investments that corresponds to their desired return on investments through increased subscription of the internet, mobile phones among other aspects of the ICT. It is not simple for the telecommunication companies to bring to the countryside their sophisticated equipment that guarantees the availability of signals even in the remotest parts of the country like the Cordillera but their projected return on investment seems not to conform with the companies’ projected desired incomes.
A number of telecommunication companies had put up cellsites in strategic areas in some challenging areas in the region and were able to provide sustained internet signals to the countryside for quite a time. However, several places have experienced stoppage of service due mainly to issues related to the lands where the cellsites are located. This, aside from uncooperative local officials who seem to impose unrealistic conditions in the renewal of their business permits and their failure to negotiate with these land owners for more reasonable site rentals as part of their service to their constituencies.
The poor interconnectivity in most remote parts of the region was brought to the attention of the Regional Development Council of the Cordillera (RDC-CAR) that constrained the region’s policy-making body to intervene in the said problem. During its regular meeting in Bontoc, Mountain Province last April 7, 2017, representatives of telecommunication companies were invited to shed light on the complaints of local officials on the poor signals in their areas of jurisdiction. Company officials reported the serious problems they continue to encounter is the alleged conflicts of land owners regarding the authorized representative to collect rentals from the companies, the conflict on the status of the lands where the cellsites were erected, the sudden increase in the rentals of the lands where the cellsites have been put up, the absence of support from local officials to negotiate with the concerned land owners on what to do with the problems, among others. In turn, the RDC-CAR passed a resolution mandating local governments to extend utmost assistance to the telecommunication companies interested to install cellsites in their places and to help the said companies locate government lands or buildings that will be feasible for the said purpose. During the joint RDC and Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) meeting in Luna, Apayao last September 7, 2017, the same problems was again raised forcing the two bodies to order the concerned government agencies to investigate the said matter and recommend appropriate moves to be taken against the erring telecommunication companies or the uncooperative local officials.
We have to admit that interconnectivity has become a significant part of the lives of the people living in the different parts of the global village. We need to be informed of developments worldwide especially those that impact on our lives and for us to also inform the world of what we think and propose in an efficient and accessible manner.
The government, in partnership with the telecommunication companies, must be aggressive in bringing the most feasible means of interconnectivity to the countryside because people in the remote villages deserve to be like those in the urban areas who have easy access to all forms of media. Local officials must have the political will in enticing telecommunication companies to service their constituencies by providing the appropriate incentives and not what they can get out of these investments. It would be a great disservice to the constituents if these officials think of their pockets first before that of meeting the right of people to information and communication.
Connectivity is a need. Many professionals can do their work online and this is one thing that corporations and officials seem not to discern. Business and work can be done at home and this can also decongest urbanized areas by attracting families to settle in the countryside and provide children with a quality of life much better than that of the city. This has a domino effect in the development of communities as these professionals can also contribute their expertise to their hometowns.
We must push the telecommunication companies to invest more because the countryside has its own share of the market which could either equal the market of the urban areas once given the needed break to be connected.