UP economist doubts new gov't broadband project

Posted at 09/02/11 10:51 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Aquino administration's efforts to revive the aborted National Broadband Network (NBN) project has received failing marks from a University of the Philippines economics professor.

Dr. Raul Fabella, one of 2 UP economics experts who conducted a study of the anomalous NBN-ZTE deal entered into by Arroyo administration, said government agencies are better off getting Internet services from the private sector.

"Government agencies should be able to choose their providers. Paano na lang kung pangit ang service ng gobyerno? Eh di patay na. Monopoly eh," he said.

In a 36-page proposal submitted to Malacañang, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) claimed that the government would save on Internet costs if it had its own broadband network.

The DOST placed the set-up cost at P800 million. Fabella, however, believes that this is on the low side and does not include expenses for labor, maintenance, and system upgrade.

He also doubts that a broadband network operated by government would be competitive and have the cutting-edge technology provided by private telcos.

"Ang kinatatakutan ko dito, we spend P800 million for set-up cost and then you eventually simply turn your back because it's not workable anymore," Fabella said.

He said this happened to the government's "Telepono sa Barangay" project that sought to provide landline phone services in every barangay across the country.

The project was overtaken by the rise of cellphone technology because of bureacratic delays.

Engineer Jun Lozada, a consultant-turned-whistleblower in the anomalous NBN-ZTE deal, said  a government broadband network would fill a need in information dissemination.

However, Lozada warned against possible opportunities for corruption, as cited his NBN-ZTE deal experience.

"Alam mo, para sa pangalan ng mahihirap, andami nang yumaman," he told radio dzMM.

In separate statements, Malacanang and DOST Secretary Mario Montejo confirmed proposals to revive the NBN project.

They added, however, that there is no final decision yet on the issue.