Philippines to spend US$37.3 million on free WiFi expansion

By Medha Basu

Expansions planned to cut queues in government offices.

The Philippines Government will spend PHP 1.76 billion (US$37.3 million) on free WiFi in public areas next year.

“We would like these Wi-Fi hotspots to create value, promote education, help trade and travel, cut red tape in public offices, and be a lifeline to those who are in distress,” said Senator Ralph Recto.

The first phase covered selected schools, hospitals, government offices and transport terminals in 2015.

Free WiFi should also be installed in frontline government offices which “draw the longest queues and the largest crowds”, Recto said. In the “age of [President] Duterte”, Wifi can help cut red tape and make “papers and processes” move faster in government offices, he added.

The country has among Asia’s worst internet connection speeds. In cloud company Akamai’s State of the Internet report this year, Philippines along with India had the lowest average connection speeds in the region at 3.5 Mbps.

President Rodrigo Duterte promised better internet connections in his first State of the Nation Address in July. He plans to expand it to parks, libraries, airports and on buses.

The new funding brings the project total to PHP 4.81 billion (US$102 million) since 2015, and an increase of PHP 107 million (US$2.2 million) from this year. The funding is part of the proposed budget for the new Department of Information and Communication Technology.

“With the proposed funding, the project, which aims to provide free broadband internet access to 1,462 towns and 44 key cities nationwide, is sustained,” Recto said.