By Sandy Araneta
MALACAÑANG yesterday expressed support to the plan of the Department of Science and Technology to provide free wifi internet in public places in the country.
The Free Wi-Fi Internet Access in Public Places project of the Department of Science and Technology’s Information and Communications Technology Office to bring Internet connectivity to class 4, 5, and 6 municipalities in the country recently got a three billion peso upgrade from the Senate and will be a nationwide project.
Originally, the Project was designed to cover only town plazas of 748 class 4, 5 and 6 municipalities, with a budget of 334 million pesos. Last week’s budget deliberations in the Senate upgraded the project to have nationwide coverage.
The project is now designed to provide not only free Wi-Fi in town plazas in municipalities, but also including transport terminals (train, sea and air), school yards, hospital lobbies, national government agencies, public parks and local government unit offices.
Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., head of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, said during yesterday’s radio program “Pilipinas! Pilipinas!” hosted by Albert Sebastian and Efren Montano on DZRB (Radyo ng Bayan), expressed Malacanang’s support for the project.
According to the DOST website, World Bank studies showed that for every 10 percent increase in broadband connectivity results in a 1.38 percent increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Undersecretary Louis Casambre of the DOST-ICT Office, said “any increase in Internet connectivity through “Free Wi-Fi Internet Access in Public Places” will jump start economic development by giving access to e-Commerce, e-Learning, and e-Government tools to beneficiaries…”
These can increase their incomes and pushing their economic status upwards across the nation, especially those belonging in the countryside, said Casambre.
Casambre also added that most of the countryside is in a “vicious cycle” where most citizens are unable to afford broadband Internet giving little to no incentive for private sector Internet Service Providers to invest in the necessary network infrastructure.
Internet connectivity and Wi-Fi hotspots to most municipalities for the project will be sourced from the country’s ISPs while in areas that do not have broadband connectivity/infrastructure, the DOST ICT Office intends to use TV White Space Technologies which was used to provide last mile connectivity in areas affected by the Bohol earthquake and Typhoon Yolanda.
TVWS refers to the vacant frequencies located between broadcast TV channels, which can be used to provide wireless data connectivity to remote communities in the country.
Internet peering advocates are also enthused with the Project as it can significantly improve the speed of Internet access in the country, the Project requires all Internet providers for the free Wi-Fi project to actively peer with PhOpenIX, the country’s only third party Internet Exchange, also managed by DOST.