Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, who won a fresh six-year term in the last elections, said Wednesday, July 20, that he has filed Senate Bill 58, which seeks to make free Wi-Fi in public areas a permanent initiative through a law passed by Congress.
Under Pres. Benigno Aquino III, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) rolled out one of its flagship projects, the multi-billion free Wi-Fi access in public areas. The program is now on its second phase but can be scrapped anytime by the current administration if it is not institutionalized through legislation.
Pangilinan said wireless Internet is a huge step in modernizing the country’s Internet connectivity.
“In this age of computers, smartphones, and social media, Internet has become an essential tool in keeping in touch with loved ones, operating businesses, and being a source of news and information,” Pangilinan said.
“But not everyone has access to Internet, which is why we filed a measure that will provide public Internet access,” he added.
The Free Public Wi-Fi Bill filed by Pangilinan aims to provide free wireless Internet access in public places such as government offices, parks, state colleges and universities, hospitals, transport terminals, among others.
Internet penetration is highest in the developed world with almost 90 percent of the population gaining access to the Internet. Yet, Pangilinan said most developing countries such as the Philippines are trailing behind in terms of adoption and Internet penetration rates.
Last year, the House of Representatives passed a proposed measure on its third and final reading that also seeks to provide wireless Internet access in public areas.
According to the United Nations Broadband Commission’s Report on the State of Broadband, only 39.7 percent of the Philippine population was able to use the Internet in 2014, placing the country at 106th out of the 191 countries evaluated in the report.
?This means that a huge portion of the population lacks access to reliable and high speed Internet connection,? the lawmaker said.
?Therefore, there is a crucial need to accelerate the shift from basic connectivity to a more fully-interconnected digital economy to bridge the digital divide by providing free public wireless Internet access.?
Pangilinan added: ?We saw that Internet has a big role in the lives of Filipinos. We have families who rely on the Internet to be able to talk to their loved ones working abroad, and also the BPO industry that contributes a lot to our economy.?