Sunday, May 26, 2024

House ICT panel starts deliberating ‘Free Public Wi-Fi Bill’

The House Committee on Information and Communications Technology has started the deliberations on a bill which seeks to provide free wireless Internet accessibility in government offices and other public places.

Manila hotspot

Filed by Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon in July 2013, House Bill 1550 or the ?Free Public Wi-Fi Act? mandates the Department of Science and Technology to provide free internet connectivity in buildings of all national government offices including its regional and satellite offices, in municipal halls and in provincial capitols, in state universities and colleges, in public parks and plazas, in public hospitals and even in public transportation terminals such as airports and public bus stations.

HB 1550 was first filed in the 15th Congress by then Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino.

?The Free Public Wi-Fi Act seeks to move government one step forward in providing democratic access to the Internet. Notwithstanding the issue of the mass accessibility and availability of personal electronic devices that people have to use in order to access public networks, government has to recognize that the Internet is an important mechanism in delivering some of its services, and a valuable tool for people?s participation in governance and in democracy,? Ridon said in the explanatory note of HB 1550.

?One way to foster this democratic participation is by at least provide the people access to the Internet in many, if not all, of our government buildings and public establishments,? he added.

Ridon cited a 2011 report published by the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right of freedom of opinion and expression which states, ?Given that the Internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all States.?

One notable provision of the proposed bill is the absence of restrictions with regard to public wi-fi access, in the form of passwords and other similar mechanisms. The bill also seeks to provide wi-fi service in public places free of charge.

?At present, Internet subscription is still a service that only a few well-to-do families and individuals can afford on a regular basis. If we want to maximize the potential of the Internet as a tool for the advancement of our citizens? rights and welfare, the government should provide the necessary infrastructure that would ensure universal access for all,? Ridon ended.

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