THE free public wifi project of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) will be fully implemented by early 2018, Undersecretary Monchito Ibrahim assured.
First rolled out in 2014 under the defunct Department of Science and Technology- Information and Communications Technology Office (DOST-ICTO), the program has been a long delayed initiative and Ibrahim said the DICT is eager to fast track the program.
“By early next year that should be 100 percent complete… The project is already very delayed,” the official admitted in an interview on Wednesday at the sidelines of the opening of the Fujitsu global delivery center in Ayala Center Cebu Tower.
A cause of the delay is the transition from DOST to DICT, he said. The creation of the DICT was signed on May 23, 2016. It is the primary policy, planning, coordinating, implementing, and administrative entity of the Executive Branch of the government that will plan, develop, and promote the national ICT development agenda.
Towards the end of the year, Ibrahim said DICT eyes to implement 70 percent or more of the free public WiFi project. Priority areas include public places like plazas, bus and sea terminals, which he said is under the first phase of the project, while phase 2 will be public schools, state colleges, and universities.
On Aug. 2, President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law Republic Act No. 10929 or the Free Internet Access Program in all public places in the country. As the lead agency, DICT, in partnership with the private sector, must ensure a minimum internet speed of 2 Mbps or the speed requirement indicated in the National Broadband Plan, which Duterte approved last March.
In the broadband plan, the goal is to provide connections of at least 10 Mbps to subscribers by 2020. Ibrahim said the national broadband plan is yet to undergo a feasibility study.
“We are hoping that by the end of the year, we will already have the study in place so we can already move forward,” he said, adding that the study has not yet began since it is yet out for bidding.
The national broadband plan is estimated to cost P77billion to P199 billion over the next three to four years.
Early this month, Duterte also ordered the creation of an interagency body, the Info Tech Review Committee, that would review the government’s broadband plan. In news reports, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar said the committee was given 15 days to come up with proposals to improve internet access in the country.
For the feasibility study, Ibrahim said it will identify what the most sustainable means to provide reliable Internet connection in the country is.
“We are working on the development of a feasibility study so we would like to get expert advice on how we could move the program forward, and identify what strategic directions we can actually take. Should we make use of private telcos or build our own, or use satellite technology or focus on fiber optics?” he said.
In another development, Duterte named DICT Undersecretary Eliseo Mijares Rio Jr. as officer-in-charge (OIC) for DICT in place of former DICT Secretary Rodolfo Salalima, whom Duterte accused of “favoring” one telco player.