Expect telcos to mount a massive lobby to torpedo this bill.
The House of Representatives on Wednesday night passed on third and final reading a bill calling for the enactment of a law that would make it mandatory for public areas, including transport terminals, parks and plazas to have a free wireless Internet connection for public use.
“The proposed Free Public Wi-Fi Act seeks to address the country’s problem of interconnectivity by providing free public access points in all major public places,” the authors of House Bill 5791 said in a statement.
The bill was principally authored by Rizal Rep. Joel Roy Duavit and Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon. Duavit is chairman of the House Committee on Information and Communications Technology.
Ridon, a lawyer, led the defense of the bill in plenary.
The proposed law calls for the mandatory installation of broadband hotspots in all national government offices, buildings of state universities and colleges, public parks, plazas, hospitals and transportation terminals.
No password or fees will be required to tap into the network, “except when there is a clear and present security or technical risk,” according to the bill.
“The Free Public Wi-Fi Act seeks to move government one step forward in providing democratic access to the Internet. Notwithstanding the issue of the mass accessibility and availability of personal electronic devices that people have to use in order to access public networks, government has to recognize that the Internet is an important mechanism in delivering some of its services, and a valuable tool for people’s participation in governance and in democracy,” Ridon said in his explanatory note of the bill.
“At present, Internet subscription is still a service that only a few well-to-do families and individuals can afford on a regular basis. If we want to maximize the potential of the Internet as a tool for the advancement of our citizens’ rights and welfare, the government should provide the necessary infrastructure that would ensure universal access for all,” he added.