Bill on free Wi-Fi in public places hurdles first hearing in Senate

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A measure providing free Internet connectivity in public places has passed the committee level in the Senate, according to its main proponent Sen. Paolo Benigno ?Bam? Aquino IV.

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Aquino said in a statement that Senate Bill No. 1277 or the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act is now slated for plenary deliberations or second reading.

Aquino, chairman of the Committees on Education and Science and Technology, said free Internet access will be provided in all national and local government offices, public schools, public transport terminals, public hospitals and public libraries.

“It is imperative that we institutionalize this very important platform — to improve access to quality Internet in the Philippines especially when only 52.6% of Filipinos have Internet access,” he said.

Under the measure, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) will be mandated to craft a plan and a timeline for the rollout of this program.

“The DICT will also take the lead in coordinating with local government units to ensure the on-ground implementation of the program,” Aquino said in his sponsorship speech.

The measure will also authorize the DICT to streamline the process for the application of permits and certificates for the construction of infrastructure and installation of equipment necessary, in coordination with national government agencies and local government units.

“Now is the time to invest completely in developing Internet quality and bringing this powerful tool to every port, every station, every park, every museum, and every classroom in the Philippines,” the lawmaker stressed.

As chairman of the Committee on Education, Aquino has filed Senate Bill No. 1050 seeking to connect all public educational institutions to the Internet to help students enhance their personal and academic development.

In a previous hearing, it was discovered that only 26 percent of public schools in the country have Internet access, which Aquino said is detrimental to the progress of education.

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