Free public Wi-Fi bill gets House nod on final reading

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icto building The Department of Science and Technology (DOST), through the ICT Office, is about to roll out a free public Wi-Fi program, through TV White Space Technology, with a budget of P1.4 billion. But the legislation from Congress would institutionalize the initiative with a yearly budget. “The proposed Free Public Wi-Fi Act seeks to address the country’s problem of interconnectivity by providing free public access point in all major public places,” the authors stressed, following the third reading passage of HB 5791. HB 5791 is entitled “An Act providing free public wireless Internet access in public buildings, terminal, parks and plazas throughout the country.” The original HB 1550 was principally authored by Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry L. Ridon. The substitute bill was earlier approved and defended in plenary by the House Committee on Information and Communications Technology chaired by Rep. Joel Roy R. Duavit (1st District, Rizal) and Ridon himself. Co-authors of the substitute measure include Reps. Xavier Jesus D. Romualdo; Mariano Michael M. Velarde, Jr.; Francis Gerald A. Abaya; Monique Yazmin Q. Lagdameo, Antonio L. Tinio and Jonathan Dela Cruz. HB 5791 mandates the installation of broadband hotspots in the following areas: all national government offices; buildings of state universities and colleges; public parks and plazas; public hospitals and public transportation terminals. The proposed statute mandates that access to the Internet connections shall not be restricted with password, except when there is a clear and present security or technical risk. Within a period of two years from effectivity of the law, all public spaces will be ensured a range of broadband hotspots. Likewise, the measure provides that the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) of DOST shall be the lead implementing agency of the proposed law. It also states that while the ICT Office will be take charge in its implementation, Internet connectivity will be provided initially by Internet service providers (ISPs). The measure provides that no fees shall be collected for users to connect to the Internet using the public broadband hotspots or the free public Wi-Fi network. Furthermore, the proposed law states that the government shall respect the privacy of citizens who use the public broadband hotspots. 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, in accordance with existing laws. ]]>

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