Recto tells DOST: Free public Wi-Fi in 12 regions must begin next month

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Sen. Ralph Recto has called on the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to work double time and live up to its commitment to provide free broadband internet access in 12 regions beginning next month.

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“I expect the DOST to abide by their commitment. The government’s free Wi-Fi project must roll out and be operational next month in time for the opening of classes this school year,” said Recto, who sponsored the project’s funding in the 2015 and 2016 national budget.

“The President is leaving office next month. Let free public Wi-Fi be one of his parting gifts to the nation,” the senator added.

According to Recto, a report submitted to him by the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICT Office) of the DOST showed that the government’s free Wi-Fi project will commence rolling out in the provinces on the second quarter of the year.

“For millions of Filipinos in the provinces, particularly the youth, this is Christmas in June. Hopefully, beginning next month, select areas in 12 regions will be the first to benefit from free public Wi-Fi,” said Recto, whose re-election bid is being supported by three presidential candidates.

“This is just the initial phase. We expect the DOTC-ICTO to expand the coverage of free Wi-Fi to all regions in the coming months,” the senator added.

Areas identified for the initial phase include the following:

? NCR (186 Sites)

? Region 1 (257 Sites)

? Region 2 (13 Sites)

? Region 3 (96 Sites)

? Region 4A (135 Sites)

? Region 4B (29 Sites)

? Region 5 (60 Sites)

? Region 6 (31 Sites)

? Region 7 (83 Sites)

? Region 8 (66 Sites)

? Region 9 (29 Sites)

? Region 11 (64 Sites)

The ambitious undertaking, officially called the Free Wi-Fi Internet Access in Public Places Project, aims to provide free broadband Internet access to 1,462 Class 1-6 municipalities, and 44 key cities nationwide.

Under the original plan, no-charge Wi-Fi access will be set up in selected airports, hospitals, public schools, plazas, seaports, government offices and other public places.

“Our students, both in public and private schools, need not spend their precious pesos in internet cafes for research purposes. Knowledge will be at their fingertips, for free 24/7,” Recto pointed out.

“Not only students will benefit greatly from this project. Transactions in government agencies will also be seamless and hopefully, hassle-free,” he added.

The idea, Recto explained, is to choose installation areas which will yield the greatest public benefit.

“And this is what DOST Secretary Mario Montejo and his team are doing: making sure the government gets more bytes and benefits out of the buck,” Recto said.

Under the sponsorship of Recto, the project was allocated a budget of P1.4 billion in 2015 and P1.65 billion this year.

Recto said free Wi-Fi access in major government hospitals is also important so that the sick and those who take care or treat them “can have a lifeline they can use to call a friend.”

Communication is important for families whose loved ones are admitted in hospitals, he stressed.

“If you’re a son of an OFW and you would like to get in touch with your father because your mom has been stricken ill, then you can do it within the hospital premises,” he said.

According to Recto, the installation of a Wi-Fi service in a Land Transportation Office (LTO) station in Quezon City is also a good start.

“Ang concept kasi na ipinaliwanag sa akin is to install it in frontline government offices which draw the longest queues and the largest crowds,” he said.

“If you’re at the NSO at may problema ka sa birth certificate mo, kung may access doon, pwede mong i-Viber ang kailangan pang dokumento,” Recto said.

Recto also welcomed DOST’s plan to set up free Wi-Fi in airports and seaports “as these would be a big help to tourists and travelers.”

Six initial sites chosen by the DOST for its pilot test in Metro Manila last year are Quezon City Memorial Circle, Quezon City Hall, Philippine Coconut Authority, Social Security System, LTO in Quezon City, and Rizal Park in Manila.

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