July 23, 2021

Under Duterte’s administration, internet access has improved and is now free.

With faster internet speeds, greater mobile and broadband coverage, and free wireless fidelity (WiFi) networks in some of the country’s most isolated areas, the Philippines’ 7,107 islands are today more connected than ever.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has led the charge in boosting the country’s connection, with international data speed measurement company Ookla reporting a “continuous rising trend” in June 2021, less than a year before President Rodrigo Duterte’s tenure ends.

According to Ookla, the country’s average fixed broadband download speeds hit 66.55 megabits per second (Mbps) in June 2021, up 6.82 Mbps from the previous month’s figure of 59.73 Mbps.

When compared to an average download speed of 7.91 Mbps for fixed broadband in July 2016, this is a seven-fold improvement.

Between May 2020 and May 2021, cellular telecommunications company Smart Communications Inc. (Smart) claims that its average mobile download speeds have “almost tripled” from 16.60 Mbps to 47.30 Mbps.

It claimed that the significant rise in average download speed was due to the DICT and the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) expediting fixed and wireless telecommunications infrastructure licenses.

Since the government fast-tracked applications, PLDT and Smart have obtained approximately 22,000 fixed and wireless licenses as of June 22, 2021,” Smart stated.

In the first half of 2021 alone, Globe Telecom Inc. (Globe) received 1,451 licenses from local government entities throughout the nation.

“Globe obtained the most permits in Northern Luzon with 395, while the LGUs (local government units) in Visayas and Metro Manila (including Rizal) issued 314 and 312 permits, respectively,” Globe added.

These licenses, according to Joel Agustin, Globe senior vice president of program delivery network technical group, “will enable us to maintain the pace of constructing additional cell towers in strategic areas throughout the provinces.”

These additional mobile towers, he claims, would help to decongest their network and enhance call, SMS, and internet browsing capabilities.

The DICT has carried out its Free WiFi for All initiative in regions of the nation with inadequate mobile or fixed internet connections, with a total of 10,311 operational stations to far.

These free WiFi stations may be found in places including national and local government offices, public schools, state universities and colleges, government hospitals and rural health units, public parks, libraries, and transportation terminals, in addition to remote regions.

The program, which was previously subcontracted to Hong Kong-based SpeedCast as part of the 2018 Pipol Konek Project, is now fully integrated into the DICT’s Free WiFi for All initiative.

This was made feasible, according to DICT Secretary Gregorio Honasan II, by increasing the department’s internal capability, personnel, and resources.

According to him, these improvements resulted in a 500 percent increase in the program’s yearly rollout pace, with over 4,000 free Wi-Fi hotspots activated in 2020 alone.

In contrast, from 2016 and the end of 2019, a total of 3,251 sites were activated.

“At this rate, we can accomplish our goal of expanding Internet connection and increasing the number of active and operational sites to 67,233 by 2022 if we maintain or even enhance our current pace,” Honasan added.

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