October 21, 2020

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DICT, Zambales to boost province-wide internet connectivity

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the local government unit (LGU) of Zambales will provide internet connectivity in the province through the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MoA).

Under the MoA, the province will receive the continuous deployment of free public Wi-Fi through DICT’s Free Wi-Fi for All Program and establish the Zambales Provincial Broadband Network.

The ceremonial signing took place during the launching of 64 free Wi-Fi live sites in 16 locations in Zambales on 29 September. The fee Wi-Fi sites were the result of the cooperation between DICT and the Province of Zambales, formalised through a previous MoA signed in January. These sites have been accessible to the public since August this year.

The heightened clamour for internet connectivity after the onset of the community quarantine in the Philippines took the telecommunications sector by surprise, a press release stated. At present, government offices, hospitals, state universities, and local colleges, among others, benefit from existing free Wi-Fi sites in the province. These include the President Ramon Magsaysay State University and the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy. It is expected that with the new MOA, more public institutions will be provided with free Internet.

Meanwhile, the Provincial Broadband Network will be linked to the national broadband backbone. Phase 1 of the government-owned network will be completed by the end of 2020. The collaboration aims to be a catalyst in furthering inclusive and comprehensive broadband penetration in the province by supporting the government’s initiative to establish a provincial broadband network. And by ensuring that the provincial LGU is provided with adequate bandwidth at reasonable, competitive rates as allowed by law, if not free, the DICT Secretary, Gregorio B.Honasan, explained.

Earlier, OpenGov Asia reported that the DICT expanded its Free Wi-Fi for All Program in Zambales to improve access to online learning and healthcare programs by installing Wi-Fi hotspots with free internet. Working with DepEd, CHED, and TESDA, the goal is to ensure that the education sector gets quality access to broadcast, connectivity, and digital security this upcoming school year under the new normal.

DICT Undersecretary Eliseo M. Rio Jr. noted that the endeavour is part of DICT’s efforts to provide internet connectivity in underdeveloped communities as well as in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas. The distribution of the free Wi-Fi hotspots is in line with the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act. DICT Undersecretary for Legal Affairs, Policy, Planning, and Finance Jose Arturo C. De Castro added that the importance of the Free Wi-Fi For All Program is to empower all Philippine citizens in the digital age.

The distributed Wi-Fi hotspot runs at 40 Mbps, which is impressive when compared to the common household spend of (up to) about US$ 39 on a 20 Mbps connection. There is no longer a digital divide as an estimated 4,922 free public Wi-Fi Hotspots have been made available. The regions of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao are now connected online.

In March this year, the DICT activated thirty-one Wi-Fi sites in the provinces of Albay, Isabela, Lanao del Sur, Palawan, and Davao City. 41 access points are already fully functional in the provinces of Batangas, Pampanga, Quezon, and Cagayan.