To lure bidders, DOST includes urbanized towns in free Wi-Fi project

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With bidders uninterested to participate in the government?s free Wi-Fi program, the Department of Science and Technology has decided to include developed towns around the country to make the program more attractive to private Internet service providers.

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The DOST?s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Office said its Free Wi-Fi Internet Access in Public places project will now include first-class municipalities in the rollout to better reach the remote municipalities, which were the original target beneficiaries of the initiative.

The ICT Office said the decision to expand the coverage stemmed from the low participation in the procurement of providers for the original 967 beneficiary municipalities. A reason cited by Internet providers was the low price of Allocated Budget for Contract (ABC) for the various municipalities.

?We intend to increase the budget allocation for Municipal Connectivity for the project by around 50%,? said DOST undersecretary Louis Casambre of the ICT Office, noting that remote towns which need Internet connectivity the most.

The total number of beneficiary municipalities now stands at 1,435.

Casambre stated that service providers would now need to upgrade and expand their communications infrastructure in order to serve far-flung areas. With top-tier municipalities included in the project, it would now be easier for Internet providers to reach the poorer communities, he said.

?Tenders are currently being prepared for the new municipalities with the new budget, and they should be available within the month,? Casambre added.

According to the project management team of the ICT Office, the P1.6 billion funding intended for 2015 has now been added to the project?s 2016 budget.

The free Wi-Fi program in public places project will install wireless Internet access points in public places such as town plazas, parks, government offices, health units, and transport terminals including train stations, seaports and airports.

World Bank studies have shown that every 10% increase in broadband Internet penetrations translates to 1.38 percent increase in a country?s gross domestic product (GDP) growth.

DOST secretary Mario G. Montejo is hopeful that with the increased budget, more private firms will participate in the program.

?We are looking forward to providing connectivity through our private sector partners especially in the rural areas. With Internet connectivity readily available, their lives can be enhanced with better access to weather information, education, agricultural resources, commerce, e-government services, as well as employment, through online jobs,? Montejo said.

The domestic Internet connectivity to 14 major cities, which will act as hubs for the project, has already been awarded to a joint venture between Globe-owned Innove and Yondu Inc.

While contract to the international gateway was awarded to PLDT, connectivity to various municipalities has been awarded to WIT, Converge ICT Solutions, and a joint venture between AZ Communications and Omniprime.

The System and Management and Access component of the project, which is comprised of the nationwide network of access points and related hardware, has been awarded to Abratique and Associates Inc., which will utilize Cisco equipment to deliver connectivity to end-users.

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