Senate, House OK free public wi-fi bill

June 2, 2015 at 11:03

By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 30, 2015 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – The country may soon enjoy free Internet access in public places nationwide, as proposed measures providing such were separately approved on second reading at the Senate and on third and final reading at the House of Representatives.

The Senate passed Wednesday on second reading a bill creating a new executive department, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), that will establish free Internet services in government offices, state-run schools and other public areas.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, sponsor of Senate Bill 2686, said the passage of the measure is a huge step forward in this age of computers and Internet.

Among the powers and functions of the DICT is the “identification and prioritization of all e-government systems and applications,” as provided for in the E-Government Master Plan and the Philippine Development Plan.

The measure is a consolidation of five bills authored by Sens. Antonio Trillanes IV, Teofisto Guingona III, Loren Legarda, JV Ejercito, Juan Edgardo Angara, while also taking into consideration the bills of Sens. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Bam Aquino and Jinggoy Estrada.

Replying to concerns that the creation of the new department would result in a big bureaucracy, Recto said the “DICT’s organization will be lean.”

“It will not burn a deep hole in the taxpayer’s pocket. It will be revenue-neutral and will maintain, if not lessen, the present operating cost of the agencies which will be folded into it,” he said.

“For example, we’re trying to limit the undersecretaries and assistant secretaries. In the creation of regional offices, we won’t be making it mandatory. Why have a large physical office when one of its mandates is to promote e-governance?” he added.

Recto, who chairs the science and technology committee, said senators recognize ICT as the third top utility, after power and water, as well as the third biggest source of income, after electronics and OFW (overseas Filipino workers) remittances.

“Every 10 percentage points increase in broadband penetration is said to boost the GDP (gross domestic product) by one percent,” he said.

Meanwhile, House Bill 5791 or the proposed Free Public Wi-Fi Act was approved and defended in plenary by the committee on information and communications technology.

The measure “seeks to address the country’s problem of interconnectivity by providing free public access point in all major public places.”– With Jess Diaz, Paolo Romero



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