Telcos: Gov't's free wifi project hampered by red tape

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 08 2016 05:19 PM

MANILA - The plan to provide free internet services in 12,800 places nationwide, including public schools, is hampered by red tape from local government units (LGUs), telecommunications industry experts told members of the Senate Thursday.

Representatives from telecommunications providers Globe and Smart said they have to spend about 8 months to secure 25 different permits before they can construct a single cellular site that would aid in providing free internet in public areas.

READ: Philippine internet speed: So slow and so far behind

Telecoms added that getting the nod of subdivision owners to put up more cell sites to improve internet browsing speeds is also a problem as most residents have the misconception that cell sites emit radiation.

They clarified that the Department of Health (DOH) "has been telling barangays and LGUs that there is no radiation danger as to the provisioning of radios attached to the towers."

The Department of Education (DepEd) also said that of the 38,666 public elementary schools and 8,086 public high schools in the country, only 4,359 institutions have internet connection.

But the DepEd underscored that the "problem is not with the agency's project, but with the availability of internet connection" especially in some areas.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said they are in the process of drafting an executive order that would require local government units to fast-track the processing of permits for the construction of cell sites.

The DICT is eyeing to provide free internet in at least 5,000 public ares by year end, but when asked if the agency also needs to have emergency powers for the speedy implementation of the project, DICT secretary Rodolfo Salalima said they can do the job without a special mandate.

"I think we can manage with an executive order and hopefully get legislation from Congress," Salalima said.

Senate Committee on Science and Technology chair Senator Bam Aquino said the upper chamber of Congress will work on a counterpart bill to pass the DICT's EO into law.