Statement of the CHR Spokesperson, Atty Jacqueline Ann de Guia, supporting Senate Bill 1831 or the Better Internet Act

Statement of the CHR Spokesperson, Atty Jacqueline Ann de Guia, supporting Senate Bill 1831 or the Better Internet Act

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed gaps and inequalities that have been allowed to develop for far too long—one of which is the growing digital divide around the world and in the Philippines. In a time when majority of the population are forced to stay home, the internet has been championed as the remedy in approaching the new normal. But the reality is that not everyone has access to internet. And for those who do, they cannot enjoy quality and stable internet connection.

In 2016, the United Nations recognised access to internet as a human right and enjoined States to make efforts to bridge the many forms of digital divides. In this regard, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) supports pieces of legislation, such as the Senate Bill 1831 or the Better Internet Act in ensuring that people will have fast, reliable, secure, and affordable internet. The said law shall be mandating the increase in service coverage, setting of threshold speed and other service standards, streamlining of permits, and infrastructure sharing among service providers.

This proposed policy affirms the importance of technological advancements in nation building, economic development, and promoting people’s well-being through provision of citizen-centric information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructures.

As digital technology becomes integral to almost all of the government response to the health crisis—from accessing health care information, to work-from-home arrangements, distance learning, e-commerce and other alternatives—the use of internet is crucial in helping Filipinos cope with the pandemic and move towards economic recovery.

With efficient, cost-effective, and reliable ICT infrastructures, digital inclusion may shift the labour force towards high-skills, boosts employment, reduces extreme poverty, and increases productivity and economic growth.

In connection to this, the Commission echoes the sentiments of the Office of Senator Grace Poe in pushing for financial inclusion of unbanked Filipinos through digital means. The Senator underscored the need for steady internet connection and digital innovation to increase Filipinos’ literacy with banking and other financial technologies. This could protect the people from paying high fees and being victims of risky and fraudulent transactions online.

If the problem remains unresolved, the Commission underpins how digital divide is threatening to become the new face of inequality—reinforcing the social and economic disadvantages suffered by the most marginalised and vulnerable sectors of our society.

We are calling on our legislators and line agencies to work towards securing people’s universal access to internet to equip every Filipino with opportunities in our digital era, as part of realising their basic human rights.###