THE Department of Information and Communications Technology Visayas Cluster 2 (DICT VC2) planned to set up 424 live sites this year for its Free WiFi for All (FWFA) program in Central Visayas.
The free WiFi will be installed in 106 locations across the region, such as government hospitals, public schools, state universities and colleges (SUCs), airports and seaports, terminals, and others.
Each place will have four access points or sites that distribute the Internet to different areas within the location, similar to the public WiFi system in airport terminals.
In 2020, DICT VC2 rolled out 69 live sites in Region 7, with SUCs, hospitals, and COVID-19 isolation facilities as the priority areas.
"All locations tagged as 'live sites' are already functional and good for public use," DICT VC2 Director Frederick Amores and Cluster WiFi Team Leader Gem Albert de la Cruz stated in an interview via email.
Since it was the department’s central office in Manila that provided the target number of live sites to put up in the region this year, DICT VC2 is also coming up with local solutions to further expand the delivery of public WiFi in Central Visayas.
More access points
“We’re looking at partnering with local government units (LGU) in expanding the operation of free WiFi sites. For example, if we come to an agreement with an LGU, we can provide the bandwidth and the LGU can provide more access points in the locality so that we can expand the number of locations and sites beyond the target set within DICT. This is something we are exploring right now," Amores said.
DICT's committed information rate in the free WiFi sites is currently at 256 kbps per device, which is the minimum speed requirement for broadband services in the country.
The FWFA has three levels of registration:
Level 1 provides 50 MB data per day and only needs the machine ID (MAC address) of a device to connect to the Internet.
Level 2 gives 100 MB to the user and can be accessed through registering with a Philippine government-issued ID.
Level 3 is not yet available, but this will offer 300 MB of data per day to give the user full access to e-Government services and transactions with the use of a Citizen’s Digital ID.
De la Cruz added that some of these WiFi sites still experience technical difficulties, especially with the limited movement of their manpower due to quarantine protocols, preventing them from immediately performing restoration or equipment replacement in these sites.
Amores and de la Cruz also said that "the lack of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) is the most challenging part in the implementation of the program in far-flung areas in the whole region."
In response to this, the DICT is encouraging more commercial telecommunication companies (telco) to set up more cell towers, particularly in remote rural areas across the country.
DICT is also working on other projects and programs to help improve the overall Internet quality, coverage, and affordability in the Philippines. These include:
National Broadband Program Plan with a 2021 budget of P1.9 billion,
Issuance of the Common Tower Policy for broader coverage of ICT services and lesser cost of ICT infrastructure deployment,
Suspending the requirements of cell tower construction to fast track its deployment process, and
Rolling out of the third telco, Dito Telecommunity, which officially launched in selected areas in Metro Cebu and Davao on Monday, March 8, 2021. (Jenika Gi-An C. Nero, St. Theresa’s College-Cebu Media Communication student)