Been watching the live broadcast of the Senate hearing over the National Broadband Network Project for the last 7 hours and I must say that despite the politics behind the issue, I was more frustrated with the Senators asking repetitive questions and making non-sense tech-related conclusions (that goes to Mar Roxas and Dick Gordon).
Allow me to give my few cents worth about this project, minus the kickbacks, politicking and all the controversies.
I believe that among the 3 proposals sent to the DOTC (ZTE, Arescom and Amsterdam Holdings), the ZTE had the most comprehensive solution and the widest national coverage. The Php15 Billion ($329 million) NBN project proposal of ZTE involves installation of 300 base stations, 300 backbone stations, 30 IPMPLS nodes (for an IP backbone), 24,844 customer premise equipment with voice over Internet Protocol and one Internet Data Center and Network Operation Center with a mirror site.
The transmission will be done using WirelessMAN (30 kms line-of-sight) or more commonly known as WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) which will enable the network to cover all of the close to 25,000 municipalities (up to sixth class) and baranggays in the country.
What does each node potentially get?
- Faster and dedicated connectivity (goodbye dial-up and Smart Bro!)
- More secured and independent lines (depends on where you’re coming from)
- Free, unlimited VOIP calls to any points within the national network.
- Cheaper international VOIP calls to government offices, embassies and other installations around the world (if they’re VOIP enabled)
- Free, unlimited Internet Fax (less paper waste)
- Cheaper mobile phone access (using SIP phones)
Of course, you also get some of the inherent benefits of being connected to the internet. In essence, the proposed project is sound and laudable. The question whether all these benefits is worth the Php15-Billion peso price tag is still debatable.
It’s just frustrating to realize that such a technological leap forward is marred with corruption and politics. I was jumping on my seat itching to explain to our dear senators the difference between WiMAX, 3G, CDMA2000 and satellite technologies or why the last mile is the most problematic and costly even to the existing private telcos. But, such is life in this country.
To learn more about the NBN contract, you can read the full copy here. Or, you can read the full transcript of Manolo’s liveblogging the Senate hearing here.
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The NBN project will solve a lot of dillemas and problems to not just government agencies but to the public as well.
1. Goverment agencies will be interconnected including sixth class barangays. This allows for information sharing among government agencies such as NBI (National Bureaue of Investigations), SSS (Social Security System), BIR , NSO (National Statistics Office), GSIS, Pag-ibig, PhilHealth and the likes. It will be easier to get the data (like birth certificate, enroll for a SSS loan, file for a NBI clearance, and etc) that we need especially for the people who are located in the remote areas without going to the Main Offices/Headquarters. Heck, I can still remember that when I filed an NBI clearance here in Muntinilupa, I was still advised to go to the main office because they need to verify some information not in their database. It is easier to check the status of your SSS, Pag-ibig and PhilHealth if you have one ATM/card/ID that you can immediately use and swipe in the nearest kiosk.
2. Public schools will have the means to access information and be as technically competitive as other private schools who have the means and tools.
3. Government agencies can easily audit and track the performance of their employees. With the NBN Infrastructure they can easily setup up performance monitoring tools that can monitor the quality of their work. If the information can easily be accessed, auditors can easily verify the viability and quality of their work. (The same concept as used in contact centers and field workers.)
4. Different government agencies spend a whole deal for the services they acquired from the private telecommunications companies. Think of all the leased lines, direct lines, mobile phones, call center solutions that they need to put up per agency. For example, let’s say one agency acquires 300 mobile phones for their employees and let’s say that they get those phones at plan 800 at the minimum so their monthly expenses for the mobile phones alone will be 240,000. You may not feel the ROI on the first year but remember ROI only happens after the first year of its implementation.
5. Lastly, will this help in cleaning red tape and corruption? In my opinion, yes this will help in cleaning red tape and corruption. The reason red tape and corruption our prevalent is due to the fact that our processes and documents are not properly organized in a systematic way that it can be easily accessed anytime and anywhere. The only way to easily check and balance a process is if the corresponding agencies are transparent to each other through easy and immediate access to information.
The national broadband project is something that we can all benefit from not because we can boast it to other countries that we have that kind of technology but to ensure that proper attention and service from the government are delivered to the municipalities in the provincial areas. Second, digital divide among public and private schools will be lessen. Most of all, to clean the bureaucracy and red tape in our government’s processes by ensuring the transparency of information across government agencies.
In terms of transparency, all government agencies are required to prepare their Annual Procurement Program to be submitted to the Department of Budget and Management and to be presented come budget hearing at both the senate and congress. This Program outlines and specifies all the requirements, services, projects etc. to be procured or to be undertaken by an agency for the following year. Unfortunately, as what Senator Roxas, if im not mistaken, found out last Wednesday at the senate inquiry, this NBN particularly the ZTE deal, is not included in the Annual Procurement Program of the implementing agency which is the DOTC. In cases like this, i think this is where AndresB’s idea of media vigilance should come in. But sad to say, this country has only a handful of Jarius Bondocs.