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Philippine DICT launches new free Wi-Fi hotspots

As part of the Philippine government’s “Free Wi-Fi For All” programme, new free Wi-Fi hotspots were activated by the Department of Information and Communication Technology’s Mindanao Cluster 1 (DICT MC1) in the remote islands of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi in Mindanao.

DICT reiterated that its priorities have been to establish Free Wi-Fi sites in as many public offices and areas in the country as possible. The agency announced that with this recent deployment, all 81 provinces of the Philippines are now connected to Free Wi-Fi. Also, this is the first time that locations in Sulu were connected to the programme.

The agency added that through Free Wi-Fi, they want to reach places where there is minimal to no fibre and tower. Thus, they are currently carrying out Free Wi-Fi installation to target more geographically isolated and disadvantaged sites using a very small aperture terminal or VSAT Satellite.

DICT MC1 connected Parang District Hospital and Mindanao State University in Sulu, whereas Bongao Municipal Town Hall, Tawi-Tawi Provincial Capital, and Mindanao State University (Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography) were connected for Tawi-Tawi.

Currently, DICT  has been able to launch 8,145 sites in various national government agencies, hospitals, public schools, state universities and colleges, airports and terminals, and other public places nationwide.

This initiative is made possible through the efforts of DICT Mindanao Cluster 1 with the support of Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command, Philippine Coast Guard and BARMM’s Ministry of Transportation and Communication.

Moreover, in its mission of providing Internet connectivity to geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas in the Philippines, DICT said that it will further strengthen the roll-out of Free Wi-Fi sites this year, particularly in remote and underdeveloped areas, to provide various opportunities for Filipinos and help them better adapt to the new normal.

According to MinDA Chairman, residents of the islands need to go to higher elevations to get cell phone signals from a Malaysian telecommunication facility. With the help of DICT and MinDA, the people from these areas will no longer be isolated from the rest of the country. The islands of Taganak and Mapun in Tawi-Tawi will be provided with two VSAT facility each. Twenty-four other communities in the Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi (BASULTA) area will also get VSAT facilities.

Likewise, the DICT plans to provide four desktop computer packages to the local government unit (LGU) of Taganak Island and four more will be given to Mapun Island LGU. Meanwhile, twenty-one thin client (a computer that runs from resources stored on a central server instead of a localised hard drive) packages will be given to Mapun National High School and Turtle Islands National High School.

The Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will be providing security and facilitate the deployment of DICT teams who will install the VSAT facilities and Wi-Fi equipment to the beneficiary areas.

Accordingly, as reported by OpenGov Asia, the central government and local government units are working to offer free internet access to help the public cope with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Government is planning to put up more than 12,000 internet sites in public education institutions nationwide under the government’s Free Wi-Fi for All Programme.

With more public areas slated to have enhanced internet connectivity, this move is expected to aid in the exchange of timely and important information during this crucial time. To ensure the productivity of internet users riding on the Free Wi-Fi access, the Act also sets the minimum internet speed per user under the National Broadband Plan, which should be at least two megabits per second (2 Mbps). DICT will be the lead agency to oversee the effective and efficient implementation of the law.

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