Power grid operator National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) has offered to provide its fiber optic grid which it uses for communication as the backbone for the government’s National Broadband Plan (NBP) for free.
NGCP said it affirms its support to the Duterte administration’s initiative towards the development of the NBP by allowing the use of its dark fiber network. NGCP runs a network of dark fiber cables inherent to its transmission grid communication system.
NGCP is a Filipino-led, privately owned company in charge of operating, maintaining, and developing the country’s power grid, led by majority shareholders Henry Sy, Jr. and Robert Coyiuto, Jr. The fiber optic system runs along its power transmission backbone which stretches all over the country’s three main islands.
“Contrary to some allegations, NGCP has always been willing and eager to participate in the government’s efforts to develop a national broadband network, and we are willing to let government use these facilities at no cost,” NGCP said.
“Any arrangement with a private entity will, of course, be subject to commercial negotiations,” it said.
“Under the EPIRA, a portion of the revenue from the use of transmission assets by NGCP for purposes other than transmission must go into lowering transmission rates,” the company explained.
“But if it is for government’s direct use and operation, we will give it for free. Either way, whether we partner with government or a private entity, there will be great benefit for the public.
We give government priority in development,” it added. As early as May 2017, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and NGCP began talks to discuss the use of NGCP’s existing dark fiber network, and how it could potentially support the NBP.
“We’ve already invited DICT representatives to visit several of our facilities in Cavite and Quezon City, to give them an idea of how our system can help,” NGCP stated.
Since the NBP is a priority project of the government, NGCP hoped that a bilateral agreement for the inspection and use of the transmission related fiber optic facilities would be signed in time for the 2017 State of the Nation Address.
Negotiations, however, stalled between the two parties when the state-owned National Transmission Corporation (TransCo) insisted on being part of the negotiations.
“There is no authority for their involvement. When government privatized the transmission network, all rights over the assets, except title, were turned over to NGCP as concessionaire.
There is really nothing they can contribute to this apart from delay,” the company explained. “Their attempts to be part of all this just muddles issues from a legal, technical, and practical point of view. And when you’re dealing with 20,000 circuit kilometers of cables and over 200 substations scattered across the three main islands, we can’t afford to be mired in dealing with unnecessary parties,” it added.
“We’ve been following this up with the DICT for the last nine months. But since the TransCo involvement, we haven’t really gotten anywhere,” stressed NGCP. As the country’s sole power transmission operator, NGCP was granted an exclusive 50-year franchise to operate, maintain and expand the nation’s transmission network, which carries with it thousands of circuit kilometers of existing fiber optic cables that run across Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. These facilities are currently being used for purely internal communication purposes.