A proposed law that aims to provide free wireless Internet access in certain public areas has been approved by the House of Representatives on third and final reading, a month before the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is set to offer the same complimentary service across the country.
House Bill 5791 or the Free Public Wifi Act covers national government offices, municipal halls and provincial capitols, state universities and colleges (SUCs), public parks and plazas, public hospitals and public transportation terminals.
A similar initiative of the national government, the “Free Wi-Fi Internet Access in Public Places” project is set to be implemented by the DOST starting in July with a budget of P1.408 billion. The project covers public plazas and parks; public primary and secondary central schools; public libraries; rural health units and government hospitals; SUCs; train stations of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) systems; airports and seaports; city and municipal halls; and national government offices.
Under the HB 5791, access to Internet connections shall not be restricted with password, except when there is a clear and present security or technical risk.
All public spaces stated in the measure would be ensured a range of wifi hotspots within a period of two years upon its implementation.
HB 5791 also underscores the privacy of of citizens using the free wifi service. The administration or management of public wifi hotspots cannot engage in “collection, use, or disclosure of user data, including the collection of anonymous traffic data,” the bill states.
The Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) of the DOST was designated as the lead implementing agency of the proposed Free Wifi Act.
The measure has been endorsed by the American Chamber of Commerce, saying that "higher Internet penetration will bring a wealth of benefits to Filipinos and efficiencies for the economy, reducing business costs and helping the economy to become more competitive and meet its Millennium Development Goals."