Free Internet Access in Public Places Act, finally a reality!

President Rodrigo R. Duterte took a giant leap in bringing information technology to the people by signing Republic Act No. 10929 or the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act. It was signed into law last 2 August 2017.

The Free Internet Access in Public Places Act mandates the government, including local government units (LGUs) to provide free internet access in government offices and public places. To see to it that Internet Access can cater the needs of the users, the law requires that the minimum internet speed per user be two megabits per second (2mbps). Further, use of available or unassigned spectrum may be granted to government agencies and private entities to ensure faster internet service to the people.

Rep. Vic Yap (2nd District, Tarlac City), Chairperson of the House Committee on Information and Communications Technology and one of the authors of the measure was elated that his vision of accessible internet to Filipinos is finally a reality.

This is a monumental day for all of us. With this law, even citizens who cannot afford to avail of internet connection may have access to the worldwide web. This law will serve to level the playing field for the big number of Filipinos who cannot afford to pay for an internet connection, with those who can. said Yap.

Further, Rep. Yap highlights the importance of internet in a democratic society and the avenue it provides for the free-flow of ideas.

Internet has become a crucial element for democratic participation. The digital space is the new arena for the clash of ideas. Almost everyone goes to the internet to express their views on practically anything that happens in the world. The internet has become a very powerful tool in shaping the society of today, Yap added.

Areas to be provided with free public internet access are buildings of national and local government offices, public basic education institutions, State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) and TESDA Technology Institutions. Also covered by the law are public libraries, parks and plazas; barangay reading centers; public hospitals and rural health units; and public transportation terminals such as airports, seaports, Metro Rail Transport (MRT)/Light Rail Transit (LRT) stations and public transport terminals.

Public-private participation is also being explored in the implementation of the law. To promote an efficient and cost-effective delivery of the free internet access for public places, the DICT may partner with the private sector in the implementation of the Program. Further, the DICT is tasked to streamline the process of application, renewal and release of permits and licenses needed for the construction of infrastructure in coordination with the concerned national and local government agencies.

The program will be funded through the Free Public Internet Access Fund (FPIAF) under the management of the DICT. This fund shall be collected from Spectrum Users Fees collected by the NTC and other sources to be identified by the DBM.

Source: House of Representatives

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