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New DICT chief urged to expedite free Wi-Fi service in SUCs

By: - Reporter / @DYGalvezINQ
/ 09:09 AM July 02, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Newly-appointed Department of Information Communications Technology (DICT) Secretary Gringo Honasan should expedite the setting up of free internet service in state universities and colleges (SUCs), several senators urged on Tuesday.

Citing DICT data, Senator Sonny Angara noted that only 17 out of 112 SUCs in the country have installed free Wi-Fi hotspots as of December 2018.

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“That’s a low 15 percent accomplishment rate,” the senator said in a statement.

“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,” he added.

He also said that aside from fast-tracking the setting up of free Wi-Fi, the internet speed should also be upgraded.

Schools have been identified as priority sites for the implementation of the Nationwide Free Public Internet Access Program under the Republic Act No. 10929.

Angara noted that the project has a total budget of 1.7 billion for 2018, 326 million of which is allocated for the installation of hotspots in SUCs while the remaining P1.36 billion is for other public areas such as town halls, airports, and other transportation terminals.

But by mid-2018, the senator noted that DICT officials admitted they had utilized only 10 percent of the P1.7 billion-budget.

“Hindi ko alam kung ano na ang latest progress. But the election ban on certain types of government spending, the delay in the enactment of the national budget, plus the existing institutional weaknesses in project procurement have surely affected the implementation,” the senator said.

Angara, however, expressed confidence that “with Secretary Honasan at the helm of DICT, this program will be carried out with a greater sense of urgency.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto also said he is “optimistic” that the Honasan will “fix the bugs” of the entire program and will “implement a catch up plan that will cover other areas of concern.”

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

He expressed concern that if the implementation of the program is not expedited, 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 in a separate statement.

Honasan recently took his oath as the new DICT chief at the Malacañang.

He attended his first Cabinet meeting on Monday.  (Editor: Gilbert S. Gaviola)

READ: Honasan takes oath as new DICT chief, attends Cabinet meeting

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