Reelectionist Senator Sonny Angara wants the government to step up the implementation of free Internet access in public places under Republic Act 10929, particularly in state universities and colleges (SUCs) across the country.
Under the law signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2017 creating the Free Internet Access Program, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is the lead agency in carrying out the government’s free W-Fi program in public places in the country, including government-run education institutions.
Angara, however, disclosed that out of the 112 SUCs covered by the project, only 17 had been given the free Wi-Fi connectivity as of December 2018, based on DICT’s data it submitted to the Senate during the last budget hearing.
“That’s only 15 percent of the overall target,” lamented Angara. “Any delay means depriving our students and faculty members of 95 SUCs access to free Wi-Fi as what the project has intended.”
The government’s free public Wi-Fi project has a total budget of P1.7 billion for 2018, which includes P326 million for SUCs and P1.36 billion for free Wi-Fi in public places. However, as of June 2018, the DICT reported during a Senate budget hearing that it had only utilized 10 percent of the fund appropriated for the project.
According to Angara, the free Internet connectivity in SUCs can help students with their research, school assignments and projects.
With free Wi-Fi access, Angara said, devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones can connect students to a wealth of text, audio and video content not found in textbooks.
“Kung libre ang Wi-Fi, malaki ang matitipid ng mga estudyante dahil hindi na nila kailangang gumastos sa mga computer shop o pagpapa-load para magkaroon ng internet data,” Angara pointed out.
He added: “This could also help students to keep in touch with their families and loved ones. Partikular na sa mga mag-aaral na ang mga magulang ay OFW o para sa mga nag-aaral sa Maynila habang ang kanilang pamilya ay nasa probinsya.”