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Sunday, February 25, 2024

Free internet to bridge digital divide

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As the population grows, the digital gulf widens.

Free internet to bridge digital divide
DICT Secretary Gregorio Honasan

Faced with the challenge, the Department of Information and Communications Technology plans to accelerate the rollout of free internet access nationwide to bridge the rapid digital divide.   

In line with the government’s thrust of providing internet access for all, the Pipol Konek Free Wi-Fi Internet Access in Public Places Project was geared toward the acceleration of enhancing internet accessibility and connectivity and hastening economic, social and educational opportunities nationwide.   

To date, the Pipol Konek has provided free internet access to about 2.5 million unique devices/users through the establishment of 2,565 live sites covering 17 regions, 58 provinces and 394 municipalities.

“We have a backlog for that [free Wi-Fi in hospitals]. We will be doing this in sequence. Because if we go back to the ultimate rule which is the constitution, we want to secure and protect the right, liberty and property,” said DICT Secretary Gregorio Honasan.   

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The DICT as of 30 June had 53 integrated free Wi-Fi Internet sites in public hospitals in the country.      

“We will first connect everybody to each other—government to governments, domestic to global, government to business, government to the citizens and everybody to each other. And we will do this in a faster, cheaper if not in a free manner and in a more secure manner,” Honasan added.   

The government also rolled out the implementation of the National Broadband Plan in response to the clamor for faster internet speed and affordability throughout the country.

The NBP to date has successfully tested and surveyed 100 percent of the dark fiber in Mindanao, 90 percent in Visayas and more than 60 percent in Luzon.

The NBP has also started the construction of the cable landing and the repeater stations, while the 240-km route will be done by this month at the earliest. The two terabyte capacity will be harnessed through the operations of the Cable Landing Stations.

In accelerating the establishment and rehabilitation of communications tower in the Philippines, the government has signed a total of 21 memorandum of understandings with so-called Common Tower Providers.   

“Common tower policy will be driven by the overriding objective. The tower is not operating in a vacuum so the tower policy is an enabler, that’s the means and what’s the end –connectivity,” Honasan said.   

“Our goal is to connect the government to other governments, domestic and global; government to business, encourage foreign investments; and government to citizens and everybody to each other,” he added.   

The Philippines just has 16,300 towers serving around 130 million combined subscribers of the existing telcos, resulting in the country having one of the lowest tower density in Asia.

The government estimated that building a tower would cost an average of roughly $100,000 each, and require $50 billion to roll out 50,000 towers nationwide.

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