Free WiFi in Public Places Across the Philippines, Coming in July 2015 c/o DOST

In line with the agency's vision of enhancing internet accessibility for Filipinos to accelerate economic, social and educational opportunities and to reduce the growing Digital Divide as well as to reinforce the 'Internet For All' thrust identified in the Philippine Digital Strategy from 2011 to 2016, the Department of Science and Technology will start to provide free 24/7 WiFi access in public places across the archipelago starting July 2015.

Free Wifi Philippines

According to DOST, the budget for this landmark project as authorized in the 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA) is Php 1.408 Billion, instead of just Php 339 million that was originally proposed in the National Expenditure Program (NEP). The increase in budget resulted in the addition of public spaces including public schools, libraries, school yards, public transportation terminals, seaports, airports, government hospitals and rural heath units, and possibly others, in all municipalities Class 3 and lower on top of the the original 748 plazas of Class 4, 5 and 6 municipalities included in the plan.

Free Wifi Philippines DOST
The Budget Breakdown, courtesy of Department of Science and Technology

With national roll out starting in July 2015, the program will initially be capable of serving 105,000 users concurrently with 256 kbps each, which is the lowest prevailing speed requirement for broadband service and is lower than the minimum speed that network providers offer via postpaid plans and prepaid promos. A data volume based Fair Usage Policy depending on 'user registration level' shall also be implemented to promote an equitable distribution of the public service.

Free Wifi Philippines DOST

There will be three levels of registration.

Level 1 is the lowest level and will only require the machine ID (MAC address) of a device for a user to gain access after ensuring that the device shall actually be in use by a human through an appropriate method implemented at the Captive Portal greeting page (similar to what some hotels and all SM Malls do with their Free WiFi registration).

Level 2 - the intermediate level - requires that a user present a Philippine government issued ID, or in the case of a foreigner, a valid passport, at any designated registration authority, or possibly through a web-based registration system that would accept an image of an acceptable ID. 2-factor authentication will also be considered for use using a mobile phone number, or an e-mail address. A username and password will then be issued to the registered user so that he/she may then use the account on multiple devices.

Finally, Level 3 - the highest level - gives users a Citizen’s Digital ID subject to the requirements of the National Public Key Infrastructure that will be used to gain access to the public service. At this level, a user shall be gain full access to benefits of this public service, as well as, full access to e-Government services. The Digital ID, which is not available to non-citizens, shall be tied to the Common Reference Number (CRN) of the Universal Multi-purpose ID (UMID).

Free Wifi Philippines DOST
Breadth of access to websites and online content is determined by the user's registration level.

Why The Philippines Needs This Program

Based on data gathered by DOST as of April 2014, only 20% of the total Filipino households have computers while a significant portion of the population still do not benefit from the Internet access despite the fact that each Filipino owns at least one smartphone or tablet.

Free Wifi Philippines DOST
But what's really shocking is that 85.8% of public elementary schools and 44.9% of secondary schools in the Philippines still don't have access to the internet. Imagine what all these kids oare missing out on by not being able to go online. And it's not just Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram; How about Wikipedia, Youtube, and all those informative websites that could have helped them with schoolwork and let them gain more knowledge that's at par with what kids from other countries get.

The Department of Science and Technology is hoping that this Free WiFi Access project can put the opportunities and benefits of going online at arm's reach of every Filipino across the country. To quote DOST, "With recently updated data from a World Bank report showing that for every 10 percent increase in broadband connectivity results in a 1.38 percent increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the Project has tremendous potential to contribute to the economic development of the country."