Free Wi-Fi nationwide: A rundown of government initiatives

MANILA, Philippines – A bill was filed at the Senate last week, pushing for free Internet in all public schools in the Philippines.

Under Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV's Senate Bill 1050the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) will be mandated to provide a stable Internet connection in all public schools, including state universities and colleges, for both students and the faculty. 

If the bill is enacted, free Wi-Fi hotspots will be established in academic institutions to "help students enhance their personal and academic development," according to a press release issued by Aquino's office. "Teachers and students should be given access to the Internet for meaningful research, collaboration, and learning." 

The bill, however, isn't the first to push for the internet-for-all ideal.

In July, Senator Francis Pangilinan filed Senate Bill 58 or the Free Public Wi-Fi Bill. As opposed to Aquino's more concentrated, academe-oriented approach to boosting internet penetration in the Philippines, Pangilinan's is more inclusive – and also perhaps, a little more ambitious, especially in a country that hasn't been lauded for the reliability or speed of its internet connection.

In his press release, Pangilinan listed "government offices, parks, state colleges and universities, hospitals, transport terminals, among others," as the places that will be covered by free Internet. 

Even earlier, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) pushed for its own "Free Wi-Fi Internet Access in Public Places" initiative in 2015. Like Pangilinan's bill, it sought free connectivity at parks, state colleges and universities, hospitals, transport terminals and government offices.

Since its announcement in March 2015, the program continues its roll-out phase, with the goal of hitting 1,435 beneficiary municipalities – an increase from the original 967. 

As recently as March 2016, then-Sarangani congressman Manny Pacquiao filed a bill like Senator Aquino's. House Bill 3591 also sought to plant Wi-Fi hotspots in state universities and colleges.

Pacquiao emphasized the democratizing effect of the program, ideally leveling the playing field between the poor and the rich as far as access to online information is concerned. 

A news release on Gov.ph, says that a 10% increase in broadband Internet penetration translates to 1.38% increase in a country's gross domestic product (GDP) growth. Currently, Internet penetration in the Philippines stands at 43.5% or 44.5 million of the 102.3 million Filipinos.

The bills and measures above represent the government's effort to raise that number, and in turn improve the economy – if indeed direct causation applies. – Rappler.com 

Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.

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