Friday, June 14, 2024

P3-B fund for free public Wi-Fi reduced to P1.4B in 2015 budget

The 2015 national budget signed last Dec. 23, 2014 by Pres. Benigno Aquino III contained a P1.4-billion allocation for the free Wi-Fi project of the government, ICT Office chief Louis Casambre said.

ICT Office executive director Louis Casambre in a file photo
ICT Office executive director Louis Casambre in a file photo

The final amount approved by Congress was reduced by more than half from the P3-billion funding which the Senate earlier proposed in its version of the national budget.

A lawmaker from the House of the Representative is said to be responsible for whittling down the P3-billion appropriation as the funds for his ICT projects would be affected since the money would be allocated to the public Wi-Fi program.

Casambre said, however, that the final amount is already is much bigger than the original budget of P300 million, when the ICT Office first proposed the public Wi-Fi program.

The government official explained that the budget only shot up to P3 billion when senators proposed that the Digital Empowerment Fund be significantly reduced and the money transferred to the free Wi-Fi initiative.

The Digital Empowerment Fund, which had an allocation of P9 billion in 2013 but only P2.6 billion in 2015, was created to allow government agencies to procure digital devices for the use of their employees. It is also separate and distinct from the P1-billion e-government fund for 2015.

Casambre, who is also an undersecretary at the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), said in a post in online forum that the government would likely prioritize class 4, 5, and 6 municipalities for the Wi-Fi project.

The wireless technology, he said, will be deployed in town plazas, as well as in public schools, colleges, libraries, hospitals, rural health units, and the other public sites.

He said cities, which are ?actually easier and cost less because their existing infrastructure,? would have to be involved to serve as distribution points.

Casambre said Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao, and 10 other strategic cities could fill this role. ?The trade-off is that cities require a lot of money, and not much will be left for other potential beneficiaries. Trimming down the sites in the cities is possible,? he wrote.

The ICT chief said they have already talked to Internet giant Google, which promised to put caches at the 12 sites in order to make the Wi-Fi project more efficient.


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