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DICT urged to prioritize free Wi-Fi program in PH

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Two senators on July 2, 2019, urged newly-appointed Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Secretary Gregorio Honasan to fast-track the setting up of free internet in the country’s state universities and colleges (SUCs).

Senator Sonny Angara said he is confident that Honasan will carry out the free Wi-Fi program with a “greater sense of urgency” as he takes the helm of the DICT.

Angara noted that the program has been plagued with delays, citing the DICT data that only 17 out of the country’s 112 SUCs have been installed free Wi-Fi hotspots as of December 2018.

“That’s a low 15 percent accomplishment rate. These institutions of higher learning are supposed to be priority areas in the roll-out plan but it appears that they have become last-mile targets,” Angara said.

Angara said funding for the implementation of the program should not be a problem because Congress has been providing appropriations for the endeavor annually.

The free public Wi-Fi project has a total budget of PHP1.7 billion for 2018, of which PHP326 million is for the installation of hotspots in SUCs, while the balance of PHP1.36 billion is for other public areas such as town halls, airports, and other transportation terminals.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto also highlighted the delay in the rollout of the free public Wi-Fi hotspots.

Recto noted that as of June 2019, only 2,677 sites have been made operational, out of the cumulative target of 34,236 sites by the end of the year.

“If this pace will not accelerate, the target of installing 100,349 sites by 2026 will be impossible to meet. The free Wi-Fi hotspots project should not crawl like the present speed of internet in the country,” Recto said.

“I am however optimistic that Secretary Greg will fix the bugs of this program and implement a catch-up plan that will cover other areas of concern as well,” he added.

Recto also expressed confidence that Honasan would be time-on-target in meeting the timetable for the completion of needed reforms in the IT sector.

Honasan, a former senator, took his oath as DICT chief before President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Monday.

Honasan bared that he has accepted Duterte’s offer to name him DICT chief last November 2018.

He replaced DICT acting Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr. (Filane Mikee Cervantes, PNA)

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