Government plans to spend P1.76 billion next year for free Wi-Fi in public areas, which, if approved, would bring to P4.81 billion the amount allocated for the project since 2015, Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said today.
Under the 2017 proposed budget of the newly-created Department of Science and Technology (DICT), Recto said funding for what is officially known as the “Free Internet Wi-Fi Connectivity in Public Places” will go up by P107 million, from P1.65 billion this year.
“With the proposed funding, the project, which aims to provide free broadband Internet access to 1,462 towns and 44 key cities nationwide, is sustained,” Recto said.
Recto helped jumpstart the rollout of the first free WiFi hotspots in selected schools, hospitals, government offices, and transportation terminals in 2015 when he initiated the project’s maiden funding of P1.4 billion during discussions on that year’s national budget.
Recto also filed the first free public Wi-Fi bill in 2014 as one of several ICT-related initiatives, among which was the bill creating the DICT. He had refiled the Wi-Fi bill in the present Congress and is “upbeat that it will be approved like the DICT measure.”
For this year, a progress report sent to him by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) officials in May said work on the following areas with the corresponding number of sites will commence in June:
National Capital Region (186 sites), Region 1 (257), Region 2 (13), Region 3 (96), Region 4A (135), Region 4B (29), Region 5 (60), Region 6 (31), Region 7 (83), Region 8 (66), Region 9 (29) and Region 11 (64).
Under the original plan, no-charge Wi-Fi access will be set up in selected airports, hospitals, public schools, plazas, seaports, government offices and other public places.
The idea, Recto explained, is to choose installation areas which will yield the greatest public benefit. “We would like these Wi-Fi hotspots to create value, promote education, help trade and travel, cut red tape in public offices, and be a lifeline to those who are in distress,” he said.
Recto said free Wi-Fi access in major government hospitals is important so that the sick and those who take care or treat them “can have a lifeline they can use to call a friend.”
“In schools, its benefits are obvious – to help students and teachers with their research,” he said.
Providing internet access in airports, seaports, and terminals “will be a big help to tourists and travelers,” Recto added.
But in the “age of Duterte”, Wi-Fi is a major tool in cutting red tape and in making “papers and processes” move faster in government offices.
It should be installed in frontline government offices which “draw the longest queues and the largest crowds,” he said.
“If you’re at the NSO at may problema ka sa birth certificate mo, kung may access doon, pwede mong i–Viber ang kailangan pang dokumento,” Recto said.
“Pwede siguro lagyan yung mga itinatayong one-stop-shop for OFWs. Maliit lang na gastos ito kumpara sa malaking ambag nila sa ating ekonomiya,” the senator said.
“Or kung nasa Civil Registrar’s office ka at may problema ka sa marriage certificate mo, doon mismo pwede kang tumawag sa sino mang makakatulong sa ‘yo,” he added.
- Keynote Speech: From fighting crime to cutting red tape, how DICT can help, National ICT Summit 2016, Novotel Hotel, Quezon City, 28 June 2016
- Recto: DICT to make Phl an electronic republic, 24 May 2016
- Recto to DOST: Free public Wi-Fi in 12 regions must begin next month, 02 May 2016
- Recto: 12 regions to get free public Wi-Fi by June, 17 April 2016
- Recto: Prioritize free Wi-Fi in public hospitals, airports, MRT, 26 July 2015
- DOST to roll out hotspots in 967 towns, NCR, 14 cities, 21 March 2015
- Sponsorship Speech: Future proofing our country: Why DICT is an app we need, 16 March 2015
- Keynote Speech: The Importance of a Department of Information and Communications Technology, First General Membership Meeting – Infocomm Technology Association of the Philippines (ITAP), 24 February 2015
- Senate OKs funding for 51,000 free Wi-Fi spots, 21 November 2014
- Faster internet speed pressed, 28 May 2014
SENATE BILLS/AUTHORED LAWS
- Senate Bill No. 269: Bilis Konek Act of 2016, 04 July 2016
- Senate Bill No. 816: Free Public Wi-Fi Act of 2016, 21 July 2016
- Senate Bill No. 855: ICT in Education Act of 2016, 21 July 2016
- Republic Act No. 10844: Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Act of 2015, 23 May 2016