21 August 2015

 

Dear Partners,

Greetings of Solidarity for the e-Filipino advocacy! The DOST Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) is now in the first year of implementing the project “Free Wi-Fi Internet Access in Public Places”. It is expected that by year end the majority of the 7,118 target beneficiary sites will have been connected, and being committed to the full target rollout will continue as viable solutions become available from our partners. Actually, our database of possible beneficiary sites is already at over 26,000 without even counting the 35,569 public elementary schoolyards. We are a long way off however you may rest assured of our resolve for this noble task.

We are pleased to inform you that the 2016 National Expenditure Program (NEP) – the “President’s Budget”, recently submitted to Congress, proposes funding of P1.652 billion for the project 2nd year. Most of the amount proposed will cover renewal of the Managed Service subscriptions entered into in the first year, which we hope shall strengthen industry’s confidence and spur even greater participation.

Again allow us to emphasize that this project is founded on the assumption that industry and government will be able forge partnerships that draw on the strengths of each. It goes without saying that the noble goal of all Filipinos having the opportunity to benefit from the Internet will be very much harder without industry’s participation.

Moving forward, realizing that it could take several years to reach all parts of the country considering the number of potential beneficiaries and the challenging geography of our country, the DOST ICT Office in 2016 intends to implement the “Offline Internet for Remote Areas” (OIRA) Service.

The idea behind OIRA is that much of the Internet is actually unchanging just like the words and pictures in a book, or gradually changing as we experience in our daily newspapers. Such information does not actually require bi-directional communication but merely an accessible “bookshelf or newsstand”. Considering that having such information accessible would benefit the people in the remote sites, it is our intention to establish a one-way delivery service to digital “bookshelves and newsstands” which is the OIRA Service.

The OIRA Service is envisioned as using a geostationary broadcast satellite covering the entirety of the Philippines with low-cost low-power caching servers fitted with appropriate satellite receivers and Wi-Fi access points to receive the broadcast signal and provide user access via Wi-Fi that would serve as the “bookshelves and newsstands”.

This concept is not new, and at least one similar service is already being offered in the United States, and others are on their way. DOST’s Starbooks project is another example. Moreover, with the advances in information and communications technologies and the continual drop in costs, the DOST ICT Office believes that an affordable massively scalable solution can be found.

We are thus issuing this Request-For-Information (RFI) to seek information from industry, academe and civil society organizations for solutions in whole or in part to implement OIRA. Please note that this RFI is issued in the context of the Free Wi-Fi project whose project terms-of-reference may be found on the DOST ICT Office website.

We are open to all solutions. Our current thoughts on the technology aspects are:

1. Content shall be reference and/or sourced from the master data cache of the Free Wi-Fi project’s System Management and Access (SMA) Service, as the content of the master cache may be assumed to be representative of what the general public uses most, and of course other public service websites.

2. The slave caches of the SMA may also receive the broadcasted data to reduce backhaul traffic carried by the various connectivity services (i.e. IPTD, IPTM, and IPTS services) that could contribute to better overall service for online users at already connected sites.

3. The system should use open standards, not dissimilar from the Free-To-Air TV broadcast system, that will use commonly available systems, and allow anyone to design and build compatible receivers. New standards are not ruled out.

4. Receivers should use commoditized equipment/sub-systems/components such as those used by terrestrial and satellite digital broadcast, personal computing, and mobile phone industries. Portable, low power and possibly solar powered receivers should be feasible.

5. Content should be made accessible from the receivers through standard Wi-Fi connectivity, using a regular web browser, and the offline nature of this service should be essentially transparent to the user.

With respect to the financial aspects, our thoughts are:

1. The data broadcast component would be implemented by the Free Wi-Fi project as a managed service provided by a telecommunications franchise holder, preferably using domestic earth station facilities to negate the necessity of international backhaul and its attendant costs, and to promote local residency of content.

2. Receivers shall be designed and manufactured by the PH electronics industry as an appliance for sale or for lease to the general public, government, and the private sector.

As we hope to begin procurement within 2015, we request that you reply on or before Friday, October 2 by e-mail to [email protected] Furthermore, to ensure we do receive your valued reply, please also FAX a copy to +632 426-1525.

 

Respectfully,

USEC. LOUIS NAPOLEON C. CASAMBRE
Executive Director