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Free Wi-Fi coverage in schools to grow six-fold in 2021

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is planning to build free Wi-Fi access points across thousands of public schools to help boost connectivity amid the new coronavirus pandemic.

This is part of the government’s goal to invest more in digital infrastructure, which has taken the backseat in the past or left to the private sector.

Ramping up free Wi-Fi coverage across the Philippines is a key part of the DICT proposal for a record P46.6-billion budget in 2021 or almost eight times its P6-billion budget this year.

It said a total of 12,100 education centers— 10,300 public schools and more than 1,800 state universities, colleges and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority institutions—would benefit from the rollout.

It plans to allocate almost P8 billion for free Wi-Fi next year. This will increase the government’s footprint to more than 23,000 sites from 4,248 at the end of June this year.

Apart from schools, the DICT is rolling out free Wi-Fi in national and local government offices, government hospitals, rural health units, public parks, plazas, public libraries and transport terminals.

The DICT is also setting aside P13.5 billion for its national broadband program.

This is comprised of six major projects: the national fiber optic cable backbone, cable landing stations, accelerated tower build, accelerated fiber build, satellite overlay and broadband delivery management service.

One of the biggest components is the backbone, which aims to cover the entire Philippine territory to reach unserved and underserved areas by targeting the installation of 2,295 kilometers of fiber cables in 2021.

The cable landing project is part of the DICT’s venture with the Bases Conversion Development Authority and social media giant Facebook.

The DICT said the construction of a 240-km fiber highway was “underway” and was expected to improve access to two terabits-per-second capacity by 2021.

“The establishment of a national fiber optic backbone is a very pressing matter, not just in light of the public health emergency, but for the sake of national competitiveness,” Information and Communications Secretary Gregorio Honasan II said in a statement. INQ

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