MANILA - Congress allocated P1.9 billion to the Department of Information and Communications Technology in the proposed 2021 budget on top of funds for free WiFi in public areas and state schools, a senator said Sunday.
The figure is double the government's initial proposal of P902.194 million in the National Expenditure Program, according to Sen. Sonny Angara, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
"We need to really ramp up our internet infrastructure. It’s one of the needs of our country," he said in a statement.
"When you talk about build, build, build, you don’t just look at roads, you don’t just look at buildings, but you also look at the actual internet infrastructure because that will provide greater investments,” he added.
“With bigger investments coming in to the country, this will mean more higher paying jobs and more economic activity."
Some P2.667 billion was allocated for free WiFi in public spaces, Angara said.
"Expanding the access and reliability of our internet connections will go a long way in helping our children transition easier, especially for those who cannot afford to pay for their own subscriptions,” he said as he noted the distance learning method imposed in schools by government to control the spread of COVID-19.
Government offices spend an average of P350 per megabits per second (mbps) of internet bandwidth a month, or P420,000 a year for an agency which requires a 100-mbps shared internet connectivity across a whole building, Angara said.
When the first phase of the National Broadband Program (NBP) is completed, the same agency would spend P60,000 annually, he said.
Government is expected to save P720 million in internet subscription expenses in the first year of implementation of the NBP, according to Angara.
The Philippines' average fixed broadband speed ranks 32nd in Asia, while its mobile internet speed is 34th as of October, according to National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba.
The Senate and House of Representatives ratified on Dec. 9 the P4.5-trillion 2021 national budget.