The government’s free Wi-Fi internet access in public places project has obtained P3 billion pesos in funding from the Senate to expand its coverage nationwide, the Department of Science and Technology’s Information and Communications Technology (DOST-ICT) Office said.
The project seeks to bring internet connectivity to classes 4, 5, and 6 municipalities in the country, which originally had limited coverage with a budget of P334 million.
Last week’s budget deliberations at the Senate upgraded the project, giving it nationwide coverage, and will now provide not only free Wi-Fi connection in town plazas in municipalities, but also at transport terminals (train, sea and air), school yards, hospital lobbies, national government agencies, public parks and local government unit offices.
World Bank studies have shown that every 10 percent increase in broadband connectivity results in a 1.38 percent improvement in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), DOST-ICT Office Undersecretary Louis Casambre 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 push their economic status upward across the nation, especially those in the countryside,” Casambre said.
Internet connectivity and Wi-Fi hotspots to most municipalities for the project will be sourced to the country’s internet service providers (ISP), while in areas that do not have broadband connectivity/infrastructure, the DOST ICT Office intends to use TV White Space (TVWS) Technologies used to provide last mile connectivity in areas affected by the Bohol earthquake and Super 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 the DOST.
Independent ICT Policy Researcher Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos said Wi-Fi offloading is a great initiative. The expansion and use of Wi-Fi networks in public areas can bring about better quality of service, especially for the growing number of mobile broadband users.
“The prerequisite of peering through the PHOpenIX for ISPs who want to participate in the Wi-Fi project can give a boost to the local Internet exchange, provide greater security to government data exchanged through the network, and allow for more efficient use of bandwidth capacity, as local data remain within our national border,” Mirandilla-Santos said.
If successfully enforced, it is recommended that latency for locally hosted data not take more than 50 ms RTT, the standard used by IDA of Singapore. IP peering allows networks to exchange traffic with each other freely by creating an interconnection between ISPs. Such a connection would allow subscribers and applications of ISPs to pass through a shared domestic Internet exchange point, resulting in improved performance and greater traffic capacity.