By Revin Mikhael D. Ochave, October 26, 2021; Business World

The Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) said it has simplified the permit process for laying cable and wiring poles for internet projects in order to expand broadband coverage.

In a statement Tuesday, ARTA said Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 1, signed by various partner agencies on Oct. 25, simplifies the requirements for underground fiber ducts, above-ground cables, and other facilities.

“This is seen further expediting the rollout of telecommunication infrastructure and service projects, leading to faster internet connectivity,” ARTA said.

Jeremiah B. Belgica, ARTA director general, said the JMC will help the government improve internet speeds.

He noted that the Philippines was 72nd out of 128 countries in terms of mobile download speed in September, according to network testing and analysis company Ookla.

“This is a notch higher from the country’s ranking in August and a huge leap from its initial rankings in August 2017, when Ookla first began, where the country was in the 100th spot for mobile download speed,” Mr. Belgica said.

The Ookla report also found the Philippines to be 64th out of 181 countries in terms of fixed broadband speeds that same month.

According to ARTA, the JMC requires a single excavation clearance for the installation of poles or construction of underground fiber ducts.

It added that all applicants should ensure that poles be tagged to indicate their owners, and that local government units (LGUs) must create a one-stop shop to process applications for permits to excavate, use the sidewalk, and manage traffic during digs.

“Applicants for cable laying works shall only be required to submit to the one-stop shop established by the LGU, an Affidavit of Undertaking and a copy of the authority from the owner of the physical infrastructure, undertaking to be liable for damages that may be caused by the cable laying works,” ARTA said.

“The issuance also enumerated the documents that must not be required from applicants in securing appropriate notices and authorities for laying of cables on existing poles, underground fiber ducts, and other physical infrastructure such as the building permit, business or mayor’s permit,” it added.

Other agencies that signed the JMC were the Departments of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Interior and Local Government (DILG), Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD), Public Works and Highways (DPWH), as well as the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, the National Telecommunications Commission, the National Electrification Commission, the Energy Regulatory Commission, and the Philippine Competition Commission.