Gov?t reports impressive pilot for free Wi-Fi project in Bohol

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As the government prepares for the full-blown implementation of the P1.4-billion Free Internet Access in Public Places Project, the ICT Office of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said the program’s pilot roll-out is making strides in providing residents in Tubigon and Talibon, Bohol, the capability to access the Internet.

The Tubigon town plaza as seen from the Tubigon Cultural Center, where the WiFi access point for the Free WiFi Pilot is located
The Tubigon town plaza as seen from the Tubigon Cultural Center, where the WiFi access point for the Free WiFi Pilot is located

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The two towns were chosen as pilot sites for the project as they were also pilot sites for the agency?s TV White Space initiative. These sites were instrumental in coordinating relief efforts after the Bohol earthquake in 2013.

The Tubigon Free-Wi-Fi site is currently located at the town plaza , which is accessible to residents and visitors and provides connectivity for government offices in the area.

Tubigon is the nearest seaport in Cebu City and is located at the province of Bohol, Philippines, at 51 kilometers from Tagbilaran. According to the 2010 census, it has a population of 44,902. Tubigon is well known for its “lambay” crabs.

The ICT Office said students are particularly delighted with having access to free WiFi as it helps them with their research for school.

According to Anna Mariel Palima, 18, a student from Tubigon Bohol, she uses the connectivity mainly for school research and communication with friends and family in Manila, while her aunt, who works as a social worker, uses it to communicate with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) via e-mail.

The Internet connectivity at the sites uses TV White Space (TVWS) technologies. TVWS refers to the unutilized television frequencies in the VHF and UHF bands.

In 2010, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the use of TVWS for data communications. TVWS equipment can deliver 5 to 40 Mbps of data throughout a designated area that covers a maximum range of 20 kilometers.

Its signals can literally pass through several concrete walls, thick foliage, and water, making it ideal for island nations such as the Philippines. TVWS will be used to connect areas that are beyond the reach of conventional means such as a fiber-optic cables, microwave radio and cellular.

?We often use the Free Wifi for communication using apps such as Facebook, Wattpad and Skype. For research purposes, we often use Google Search and Youtube,? Palima said in Tagalog

Leizel Galia, 28, a bakery supervisor in Tubigon Plaza, said that she uses the connectivity primarily to connect with friends and family abroad and in Manila. Both users utilize smart phones to connect to the service.

Data from the Wi-Fi Access points show that peak hours are from 12 noon to 12 midnight with as many as 80 simultaneous users.

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The Free Internet Access in Public Places project is one of the various tech-related initiatives being rolled out by the government. Among these projects are the Tech4ED project, Rural Impact Sourcing and DigiBayanihan. Likewise, DOST projects such as Project NOAH and RX Box are also expected to benefit from improved access to Internet connectivity.

?Access to the Internet will not only provide access to information, education and communication to our citizens in rural areas it will also allow them to expand their markets for their goods and services well beyond their municipal borders, allowing for the start of a positive reinforcing cycle of socio-economic growth and development,? Undersecretary Louis Casambre of the DOST-ICT said.

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