Tolentino asks DICT to deliver the promise of free internet

By Paul M. Gutierrez , People’s Journal

Senate administration bet and former MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino called on the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to give a detailed and comprehensive update on the rollout of free wifi internet access in public places nationwide, saying “public expectation is high and the government needs to meet the demand for greater access to information.”

Tolentino was referring to Republic Act No. 10929, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on August 2017, which creates a “Free Internet Access Program” in all public places in the country.

The law requires that there should be wifi internet access in national and local government offices, public basic education institutions, public hospitals, health centers, and rural health units, public parks, plazas, libraries, and barangay reading centers, public airports and seaports and public transport terminals.

Specific targeted areas include computer laboratories and libraries in public basic education institutions and state universities and colleges and main lobbies and  hallways of public buildings.

“We cannot live without internet these days. It has become as important as water and electricity. We call on the DICT to give the public a status report on the law’s implementation close to two years after the signing of the Free Wifi Law by the President,” the senatorial aspirant said.

There have been reports on the program’s slow rollout. A Commission on Audit report in 2017 cited the DICT’s very low performance rate in implementing the law.

”Of course we recognize the manpower and technical challenges on the DICT. But I’ve heard department officials claim that by 2022 they will have 200,000 access points, making the country’s program one of the biggest free wifi deployment in the whole world.”

An early 2019 digital report released by social media firms Hootsuite and We Are Social noted that internet users in the Philippines dethroned Thailand as the country that spends the most time online.

The study further claimed that in 2018, Filipino internet users increased their average time online to 10 hours and two minutes from a previous record of nine hours and 29 minutes in 2017.

In addition, Pinoys spend an average of four hours and 12 minutes on social media platforms. The global average is two hours and 16 minutes.

”Data and statistics show that internet usage is driving the lives of Filipinos. That’s why it’s important that the DICT delivers on the promise of free internet. There’s a digital divide that we need to cross courtesy of responsive government programs,” Tolentino explained.###

Senatorial aspirant Francis Tolentino challenges DICT to deliver its promise of free WiFi in public spaces across the country. (Handout photo)