The need for adequate speed for the Free Wi-Fi deployed by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) was highlighted during the Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability hearing on the alleged irregularities and setbacks on the Free Wi-Fi Internet Access in Public Places or the 2018 UNDP Pipol Konek Project.
“The DICT echoes the sentiments of our honorable members of the House of Representatives in providing not just free, but adequate Internet speeds to the Filipino people. That is why the Department is continuously upgrading the Free Wi-Fi for All Program to adapt to the present needs of the people,” DICT Secretary Gregorio “Gringo” B. Honasan II said.
For download speed, DICT Undersecretary Emmanuel Rey R. Caintic said the DICT-deployed Managed Internet Service-Very Small Aperture Technology (MIS VSAT), which provides a Maximum Internet Rate (MIR) of 25 megabits per seconds (Mbps) and a Committed Internet Rate (CIR) of 6 Mbps to geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDA).
In comparison, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-deployed VSATs under the 2018 DICT-UNDP Pipol Konek project provides an MIR of only 2 Mbps and a CIR of 0.2 Mbps.
MIR is the fastest Internet speed while CIR is the minimum speed that people could access.
The cost of UNDP-deployed VSATs per location per month is around PHP 19,148 for Phase 1 for 1 access point. DICT’s current MIS VSAT is PHP 90,000 for 3 access points or about PHP 30,000 per access point. For less than double the price or 1.5 times higher, the DICT-deployed VSATs have internet speeds that are more than 10 times as compared to those deployed under the 2018 DICT-UNDP Pipol Konek project.
The DICT opted to deploy much higher Internet speeds for new GIDA sites because it would be responsive to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, with video conferencing applications being the go-to solution for communication with distant friends and family. Most common applications require at least 2.0 Mbps or higher for single window video conferencing, and anything less—like the connection speeds of UNDP-deployed sites—would be detrimental to user’s experience.
Undersecretary Caintic said the increased cost for DICT correlates to the increase in the bandwidth provided by the Department. “For the price of the Internet that we are providing now, mas maganda ang user experience ng mga tao,” he explained.
Members of the HOR emphasized the need for free and quality Internet for the people, especially during the pandemic.
Congressman Paul Daza stated the education sector is one of the important benefactors of the Free Wi-Fi for All Program. “If the schools are connected, then many of the students can do their work there and get connected,” he said.
Meanwhile, Congressman Ferdinand Gaite stated that the implementation of the Free Wi-Fi Program is a pressing concern. “Because of the pandemic, reliance on interconnectivity via Internet has been most important – sa ating education sector, sa health sector, importante ang data lalo ngayon kailangan natin ang real time information on the level of infection,” he said.