The new president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, used the platform of his inaugural address to the nation to call on the country’s recently established Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to develop a national broadband plan to accelerate the deployment of fibre-optic and wireless technologies across the country. In his State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Duterte went on to say that the government intends to spearhead the drive to deliver free Wi-Fi access in key locations such as schools, parks, libraries, hospitals, airports and other transport hubs. According to the DICT website, the national broadband plan would ‘give everyone the chance to reap the advantages of high speed internet,’ adding: ‘The National Broadband Plan will be formulated and expected to be adopted within the year through a multi-stakeholder process. This would address issues such as among others to ensure affordable access to every community and improve broadband connectivity.’
Duterte’s statement comes in the wake of the May 2016 decision by his predecessor, Benigno S. Aquino III, to sign off on the DICT Act of 2015, also known as Republic Act (RA) No. 10844, to create the new regulator to oversee the development of the country’s ICT sector. The DICT Act of 2015 is structured to be ‘the primary policy, planning, coordinating, implementing and administrative entity of the Executive branch of the government that will plan, develop and promote the national ICT development agenda’. Its far-reaching mandate extends to the establishment of ‘a free internet service that can be accessed in government offices and public areas; assisting in the dissemination of vital information essential to disaster risk reduction through the use of ICT; and ensuring and protecting the rights and welfare of consumers and business users to privacy, security and confidentiality in matters relating to ICT, among others’.