P1.7 B for new free WiFi spots

The newly-signed Free Internet Access in Public Places Act has a proposed budget of P1.74 billion next year, for the rollout of 5,308 new WiFi hotspots, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said.

On top of said funding is a proposed P1.2 billion to lay the groundwork for a national broadband system, Recto added.

Both allocations are in the proposed 2018 budget of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) of P6.9 billion, almost double from this year’s P3.6 billion, the senator pointed out.

As if to stress the importance of these programs, President Duterte mentioned these in his 37-page “Budget Message” to Congress for fiscal year 2018, Recto said.

Recto authored and sponsored the law creating the DICT. He also successfully sponsored in 2014 the funding of the first WiFi program, which is now institutionalized under RA 10929, a law based largely on Recto bill’s which was the first to be filed in Congress.

Recto said the enactment RA 10929 creates a charter for a program, ensuring its sustained implementation.

The law mandates free internet access in all national and local government offices; public schools, including state colleges and universities; public hospitals and health centers; public parks, plazas, and libraries; and airports, seaports, and transport terminals.

By the end of the year, it is projected that 13,024 sites covered by 18 “Points of Presence” in 1,489 towns and 145 under the Free Public Wi-Fi Project will be up and running.

Overall, the project aims to roll out 23,631 sites by 2018, expanding it four-fold to 100,349 by 2026.

The multiyear rollout program targets for coverage 1,880 public elementary schools, 2,688 public high schools, and 682 state and local public college campuses this year and in 2018.

“We will double check if work on these targets is sufficiently funded in next year’s budget,” Recto said.

He explained that the law signed by President Duterte does not only make internet services available to all Filipinos, “but will make sure that broadband services are faster and more efficient.”

The law benchmarks minimum internet speed, sets standards for service, Recto said.

“There are provisions that will improve internet speed, improve broadband services, slash the red tape and unfair competition practices that retard ICT growth,” he said.

“Permitting problems encountered by DICT contractors and telcos in putting up facilities are also addressed in the measure,” he added.(###)

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