SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The government is one step closer to the establishment of a Free Internet Access program as the Senate and House Bicameral Committee approved the reconciled versions of H.B. No. 5225 and S.B. No. 1277 on May 15, 2017.
The “Free Internet Access in Public Places Act” mandates the government, including local government units (LGUs) to provide free internet access in government offices and public places. To see to it that Internet Access can cater the needs of the users, the Bill requires that the minimum internet speed per user be two megabits per second (2mbps). Further, use of available or unassigned spectrum may be granted to government agencies and private entities to ensure faster internet service to the people.
A pet bill of the Duterte administration, the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act seeks to be a catalyst for economic development. With a faster internet in government offices, the President hopes that services such as issuance of permits and processing of business requirements will be accelerated.
Rep. Victor Yap (2nd District, Tarlac City), Chairperson of the House Committee on Information and Communications Technology and one of the authors of the measure highlights the importance of internet to the Filipinos of today.
“This is the internet age. The youth of this generation relies on fast and accessible internet for their research in school. The working class utilizes the internet to perform their function, even outside the boundaries of their office. Businessmen and executives use the internet to communicate with their people and run their companies. Needless to say, internet access has become a vital component on the lives of every Filipino,” said Yap.
Areas to be provided with free public internet access are buildings of national and local government offices, public basic education institutions, State universities and Colleges (SUCs) and TESDA Technology Institutions.Also covered by the Bill are public libraries, parks and plazas; barangay reading centers; public hospitals and rural health units; and public transportation terminals such as airports, seaports, Metro Rail Transport (MRT)/Light Rail Transit (LRT) stations and public transport terminals.
Public-private participation is also being explored in the proposed Bill. To promote an efficient and cost-effective delivery of the free internet access for public places, the DICT may partner with the private sector in the implementation of the Program. Further, the DICT is tasked to streamline the process of application, renewal and release of permits and licenses needed for the construction of infrastructure in coordination with the concerned national and local government agencies.
The program will be funded through the Free Public Internet Access Fund under the management of the DICT. This fund shall be collected from Spectrum Users Fees collected by the NTC and other sources to be identified by the DBM.
The Bicameral Conference Committee is Co-chaired by Sen. Paolo “Bam” Aquino and Rep. Victor Yap. The other members of the House Bicam panel are: Maria Cristina Roa-Puno (1st District-Antipolo City), Rose Marie “Baby” J. Arenas (3rd District-Pangasinan), Gus Tambunting (2nd District-Paranaque City), Sarah Jane Elago (Partylist-KABATAAN), Marlyn Primicias-Agabas (6th District-Pangasinan), Mariano Michael M. Velarde, Jr. (Partylist-BUHAY), Henry C. Ong (2nd District-Leyte), Roger G. Mercado (Lone District-Southern Leyte) and Aniceto “John” D. Bertiz III (Partylist ACTS-OFW).
The following are the House Bills filed on Free Public Internet Access: House Bill 1957 (Gus Tambunting, 2nd District-Paranaque City), HB 515 (Bernadette Herrera-Dy, Partylist BAGONG HENERASYON), HB 660 (Sarah Jane Elago, Partylist-KABATAAN), HB 1954 (Vilma Santos-Recto, 6th District-Lipa City), HB 2836 (Teddy Baguilat Jr., Lone District, Ifugao), HB 3250 Marlyn Primicias-Agabas (6th District-Pangasinan), and HB 616 (Geraldine Roman, 1st District-Bataan).