Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Free Internet Access Proposal Passed 3rd Reading

Internet Access
Internet connection in the Philippines is one of the slowest, if not the slowest, among the countries in Asia. However, this doesn't stop government officials from proposing to make Internet access available for free to everyone.

A current proposal to provide free wireless Internet access in public spaces has inched closer to becoming a law after the House of Representatives (HoR) approved on third and final reading House Bill (HB) 5791.

The measure, otherwise known as the proposed Free Public Wi-Fi Act, mandates the installation of broadband hotspots in the following areas:
  • all national government offices;
  • buildings of state universities and colleges;
  • public parks and plazas; and
  • public hospitals and public transportation terminals.
All public spaces enumerated in the proposal should have a wide range of broadband hotspots within two years after the bill is enacted into law.

It is now awaiting Senate action after a total of 211 lawmakers voted to approve the bill last week.

In the bill’s explanatory note, lawmakers led by Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon, the measure’s main proponent, said the proposed Free Public Wi-Fi Act "seeks to address the country’s problem of interconnectivity by providing free public access points in major public places."

HB 5791 prohibits the imposition of passwords for the public to access the Internet, except when there is a clear and present security or technical risk.

It also bans the collection of fees users to connect to the internet using the public broadband hotspots or the free public Wi-Fi network.

Though the government is responsible for providing free Internet access, the bill mandates it to respect the privacy of citizens who use the public broadband hotspots. In no case shall the administration or management of public broadband hotspots engage in the collection, use, or disclosure of user data, including the collection of anonymous traffic data, in accordance with existing laws.

The agency tasked to lead the bill’s implementation will be the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

At the onset of the law’s implementation, the ICTO will provide internet connectivity and hotspots will be made available initially by the services of existing commercial Internet service providers (ISPs).

Aside from Ridon, other lawmakers who co-authored HB 5791 include Reps. Xavier Jesus D. Romualdo, Mariano Michael M. Velarde Jr, Francis Gerald Aguinaldo Abaya, Monique Yazmin Q. Lagdameo, Antonio L. Tinio, and Jonathan A. Dela Cruz.

A bill similar to HB 5791, Senate Bill 2232 or the proposed Free Metro Manila Wi-Fi Act of 2014, has been filed in the Senate by President Pro Tempore of the Senate Ralph Recto.

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