Lanao Sur town gets free Wi-Fi access from DICT

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 6 March) – A town in Lanao del Sur which became a battleground between government forces and a group identified with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has been included as one of the pilot sites for the “Free Wi-Fi for All” project.

Butig joined four other areas across the country – Davao, Palawan, Albay and Isabela provinces – in Thursday’s launch of the project which was synchronized via Skype from the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Central Office.

In peace, crops flourish. A farmer plows furrows between his peanut crops in the farming village of Sindug in Butig, Lanao del Sur. The village was one of five barangays seriously affected when the IS-inspired Maute Group occupied the town in 2016, preluding the Marawi siege. Photo by MARLON P. DEDUMO

Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr. recommended Butig as the province’s pilot site for the project implemented by DICT in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The project, which would give free Wi-Fi access to far-flung areas of the country, is being implemented via a technology appraisal for Internet coverage called Very Small Aperture Technology (VSAT).

VSAT is a two-way satellite ground station with a dish antenna generally used to reach remote locations due to its wide range as it accesses satellites to transmit and receive data.

Alimbzar P. Asum, Assistant Regional Director of DICT Mindanao Cluster III said that implementing the project in a place like Butig shows that the government does not discriminate in giving appropriate programs.

Town  Mayor Dimnatang L. Pansar said having Wi-Fi access in his town is like “linking them to the digital modern world.”

“For the past years, we feel isolated here in our town. That’s why we are very thankful to DICT, UNDP and our provincial government for choosing our town. Now that the Wi-Fi is here, we don’t have to go to neighboring places just to submit or download our files, we already feel connected to the world because of this,” he said.

Republic Act No. 10929 or the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act mandates the DICT to provide internet access to the poorest and remotest areas of the country.

In 2016, a few months before the Marawi siege, ISIS-linked militants battled government troops in Butig.

Thousands were displaced and school buildings and some houses were destroyed. (Richel V. Umel/MindaNews)