House bill on free Wi-Fi with 10-Mbps speed hurdles 2nd reading

The House of Representatives has approved on second reading a bill which seeks provides free wireless access points in all major public places around the country.

Credit: wikispears.com

Credit: wikispears.com

House Bill 5225 or the proposed “Free Public Wi-Fi Act” mandates the government, including local government units (LGUs) and government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs), to install broadband hotspots in public areas that will provide a stable and reliable wireless Internet connection.

Unlike the previous version of the bill that was passed during the Aquino administration, a major provision of the proposed measure mandates that the minimum Internet speed is 10 megabits per second (Mbps).

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) will be tasked with the implementation of Internet connectivity project and ensuring the mandated speed is followed.

In cases where the DICT is unable to provide Internet connectivity, the hotspots can be made available using initially the services of existing commercial Internet service providers (ISPs).

Areas to be provided with broadband hotspots are all buildings of national government offices, including their regional and satellite offices, provincial capitols, and city and municipal halls; public primary and secondary schools; and buildings of state universities and colleges (SUCs).

Also covered by the bill are public libraries, parks and plazas; barangay reading centers; public hospitals and rural health units; and public transportation terminals such as airports, seaports, Metro Rail Transport (MRT)/Light Rail Transit (LRT) stations and public bus terminals.

Rep. Gus Tambunting (2nd District, Parañaque City), one of the authors of the measure, said 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.

Rep. Marlyn Primicias-Agabas (6th District, Pangasinan), another author, said the vital role of the Internet in information cannot be denied as it serves as the backbone of technology which is the dominant platform of development nowadays.

The bill further states that internet connection to any of the broadband hotspots in the designated public places shall not be restricted with passwords.

Only in cases where there is clear and present security or technical risk that cannot be remedied through normal technical solutions shall the administration or management of public broadband hotspots limit access to the network through the use of passwords. These passwords can be provided to the public only upon request.

No fees shall be collected from users to connect to the Internet using the public broadband hotspots or the free public Wi-Fi network.

The bill also provides the government should respect the privacy of citizens who will use the public broadband hotspots.

It further states that in no case shall the administration or management of public broadband hotspots engage in the collection, use, or disclosure of user data, including the collection of anonymous traffic data.

The committee on information and communications technology chaired by Rep. Victor Yap (2nd District, Tarlac) endorsed the bill for plenary approval. The bill is among the legislative priorities of the House and the Senate this 17th Congress.

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