The committee on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) of the House of Representatives on Wednesday, March 8, approved the bill providing free Wi-Fi in public places nationwide.
The bill ensures that there will be free Wi-Fi in public areas such as national government offices, public primary and secondary schools, buildings within state universities and colleges, public libraries, parks and plazas, barangay centers, public hospitals and rural health units, and public transportation terminals.
Tarlac representative Victor Yap, chair of the ICT committee, stated that the bill will address the country’s problem of interconnectivity by providing wireless access points in all major public places through broadband hotspots.
Yap introduced an amendment to the bill mandating the required minimum Internet speed of 10 Mbps, saying it will be useless if connection will be slow.
“For instance, in the experience of DepEd, it has the necessary budget to pay for a higher bandwidth. Unfortunately, the telcos cannot provide faster signal. This should change if there’s a requirement on Internet speed,” he added.
Internet speed issues were highlighted during the hearing as both the NTC and telcos were asked on how much budget is really needed to ensure a faster Internet speed in the country considering the current P1.8 billion budget for the DICT’s current free Wi-Fi project.
NTC deputy commissioner Edgardo Cabarios said it would take around P30 billion to build 100,000 Wi-Fi hotspots nationwide over a ten-year period.
According to Yap, the United Nations has classified Internet access as a human right. “I agree with the UN that it is one of the most powerful instruments of the 21st century for increasing transparency in the conduct of the powerful, access to information, and for facilitating active citizen participation in building democratic societies,” he said.
“The benefits of free public Wi-Fi are many. It can help revive economically ailing areas, facilitate entry of more businesses, help increase tourism or simply make an area more attractive as a destination. During disaster relief operations, the use of WiFi zones to spread helpful information can become a key part of communication in a post-disaster situation,” Yap concluded.