WITH the impending entry of a new major telco player, Senator Sonny Angara expressed hope that the government’s free Wi-Fi project will go full blast and cover the whole country.
Angara, an education advocate, is looking forward to a third telco that would invest in telecoms infrastructure which would support the implementation of a law establishing free internet access in public places, especially in state universities and colleges (SUCs).
“Sana ang pagpasok ng bagong telco provider ang hinihintay natin para mapabilis ang pagpapatupad ng libreng Wi-Fi access sa mga pampublikong lugar, lalung-lalo na sa mga SUCs kung saan malaki ang pakinabang nito sa mga estudyante,” Angara said.
The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) recently declared Mislatel, a consortium of China Telecom and Filipino businessman Dennis Uy’s Udena Corp. and Chelsea Logistics, as the provisional third telco provider following a selection process where it emerged as the lone surviving bidder.
The government’s free Wi-Fi project has a total budget of P1.7 billion for 2018, which includes P326 million for SUCs and P1.36 billion for free Wi-Fi in public places.
However, as of June this year, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) reported during a Senate budget hearing that it had only utilized 10 percent of the budget for the project.
Angara, who sponsored the DICT’s budget for 2018, could not hide his disappointment over the apparent delay in the implementation of the government’s free Wi-Fi access program.
The senator was all the more dismayed when he found out that only 15 out of 112 SUCs in the country have free Wi-Fi.
Angara said that free internet connectivity in SUCs can help students with their research, school assignments and projects.
With free Wi-Fi access, Angara said, devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones can connect students to a wealth of text, audio and video content not found in textbooks.
“Kung libre ang Wi-Fi, malaki ang matitipid ng mga estudyante dahil hindi na nila kailangang gumastos sa mga computer shop o pagpapa-load para magkaroon ng internet data,” Angara pointed out.
Meanwhile, amid the criticisms on the awarding of the provisional franchise to Mislatel consortium, administration ally Senator Koko Pimentel stressed that the Duterte government is delivering on its promise to “shatter” the duopoly” in the country’s telecommunication industry.
Pimentel also commended the DICT and the NTC for the effort in reaching the final stage in naming a new telco player.
“Admittedly there are hiccups in difficult undertakings like these, but the DICT and NTC deserve credit for the work they have put in to lay the groundwork for the selection process and the naming of a third player,” said Pimentel.
“The process was, in my view, fair and transparent, and it takes us one step closer to providing real competition in the telecommunications industry,” he added.