The House of Representatives said it aims to pass on second reading on March 15 before its adjournment the proposed “Free Public Wi-Fi Act,” which mandates the government to install broadband hotspots in public areas.
In a hearing of the ICT committee last March 8, Ilocos Norte Representative Rodolfo Fariñas said the House is expected to pass the bill on third and final reading when Congress resumes session in May.
Fariñas said the congressional leadership of both chambers had a meeting twice a month and identified the “Free Public Wi-Fi Act” as among its priority measures. “In fact this will be approved by both houses,” he assured.
The counterpart bill in the Senate was approved on Monday, March 13.
The bill will provide wireless access points in all major public places which will be installed by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) or private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in some cases.
Tarlac representative Victor Yap, chair of the ICT committee, said no less than 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,” said Yap.
Paranaque representative Gus Tambunting said the provision of free Wi-Fi access will give the people access to information without the need to spend.
“Currently, the available free Wi-Fi is very limited, and enacting a law that will ensure free Wi-Fi for all will guarantee people from all walks of life free access and equal opportunity to learn, earn and discover what the Web has to offer,” said Tambunting.
Party-list representative Bernadette Herrera-Dy said during last year’s budget hearing, she requested the DICT to submit its plan on how to start the free Wi-Fi program.
“May I request the DICT to submit it? I don’t know what’s taking the DICT so long to submit to us the list of priority areas where we will start the free public Wi-Fi. At sana pag nag-launch sa isang area, malaman natin dito sa Congress para makita naman natin yung implementation ng bill that we actually passed in Congress,” said Herrera-Dy.
Under the 2017 General Appropriations Act (GAA), the amount of P1.7 billion has been allotted for the free Wi-Fi in public areas.
The bill also provides that the DICT should ensure the minimum Internet speed is 10 megabits per second (Mbps) or meet the Internet connection speed above global average, whichever is higher.
The bill provides that within a period of two years, all public areas should have been provided with a range of broadband hotspots.
Also, Internet connection to any of the broadband hotspots in the designated public spaces shall not be restricted with passwords. Only in cases where there is security or technical risk can access be limited through passwords, which shall be provided to the public upon request.
Lastly, the measure disallows the administrators of the public broadband hotspots to engage in the collection of user data, including the gathering of anonymous traffic data.