By Stephanie Roxas
After rushing to launch the initial phase of the free Wi-Fi project in Edsa, the government is aiming to blanket the entire 24-kilometer length of Edsa with Wi-Fi signals by August of this year.
This is according to officials of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), which led the launch the project on Independence Day, June 12.
The DICT and the NTC were able to persuade the country?s two biggest telco firms, Globe Telecom and Smart Communications, to provide 30 minutes each of free Wi-Fi access, which commuters can extend by topping up their load.
In the case of Smart, subscribers may purchase load from retailers nationwide in denominations of P20 for two hours and P50 for 10 hours. Users may also convert their Smart, Sun, and TNT load to Smart Wi-Fi minutes by texting their preferred denominations ? WIFI10, WIFI20, OR WIFI50 — to 9991. Globe users, meanwhile, can continue their browsing by connecting to @GoWifi_Auto.
The two operators promised ?super speed? Internet of up 100 Mbps — without data cap. In contrast, the Free Wi-Fi in Public Places Project does not have a time limit but imposes a 100MB data cap.
After activating free Wi-Fi on the stretch between Ortigas and Guadalupe, the second run of the project will cover Edsa from Cubao to North Avenue and from Guadalupe to Taft Ave before July 24. The third and final phase of the project is expected to be completed by the end of August 2017.
Asked if the project will encourage more vehicular traffic along the country?s main thoroughfare, the proponents said the limited free time given to the commuters is just enough for them to become ?productive? while stuck on the road.
During the launch held at the Shaw Boulevard Station of the MRT, NTC commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said the initiative will give protection to the declaration by the United Nations of online access as basic human right.
Cordoba said that more than half of the world now uses smartphones and two-thirds of the global population has a mobile phone. The Philippines, he said, is the country that spends the most time on the Internet with an average of 5.23 hours per day.
For his part, DICT secretary Rodolfo Salalima said the government has the mandate to innovate and establish infrastructure for the purpose of free flow of communications that is consistent with the people?s right to freedom of expression.