A House panel plans to include free Wi-Fi zones and PisoNet, as well as the installation of child-friendly computers in computer shops, in a draft proposed measure at the House of Representatives which seeks to protect children from the harmful effects and dangers of access to new technology.
During the 3rd meeting of the technical working group (TWG), chaired by Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo, on Sept. 14, the regulation of free Wi-Fi zones was included in a presented draft substitute bill, dubbed as “Free Wi-Fi and Internet Café Regulation Act.”
The draft bill was based on House Bill No. 4740 or the “Internet Café Regulation Act” of Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian and HB 2111 of Misamis Oriental Rep. Peter Unabia.
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Under the Free Wi-Fi and Internet Café Regulation Act, the State shall regulate the access of child to Internet sites and games and other online sites.
Aside from regulating Internet cafes and computer shops, the draft bill also seeks to filter and limit the sites, games, and other applications that can be accessed with free Wi-Fi connections.
Under the draft bill, free Wi-Fi zones are defined as “places where there is free Wi-Fi access, with or without password, are provided by local government unit (LGUs), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), hotel, restaurants, theme parks, and other establishments.
Last week, DOST Secretary Mario Montejo assured the public that the whole country will enjoy free Internet access before the 2015 ends as part of its P1.408-billion free Wi-Fi project. The project also includes the installation of Internet infrastructure in 967 municipalities nationwide.
With the advent of free wireless Internet, the draft bill aims to prevent children from loitering and excessively playing offline or online video games and browsing the Internet too long in free Wi-Fi zones.
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The measure also wants to avoid exposing children to the dangers that can be browsed through Internet, such as violence, pornography, digital addiction, online gambling, and other forms of Internet scams.
Apart from free Wi-Fi zones, the draft bill also seeks to limit the access and programs PisoNet businesses. PisoNet is a type of modified computer machines, merging PC rental and arcade rental services, in which customers can easily access computer services by only inserting coins to the machine.
The draft bill also mandates the installation of “child-friendly computers” in computer shops and other establishments. These refers to desktop computers, laptops or other similar gadgets where children cannot access harmful programs or games, including those with mature, violent or addictive themes.
Having such child-friendly computers in Internet cafes will enable children to encode, research, and browse, which will lessen the risk of exposing them to the harmful content in Internet.
While the presence of child-friendly computer may minimize the risk of children in computer shops, Gatchalian insisted that there should still be time restrictions on minors in entering Internet cafes and computer shops in order to stop incidence of cutting classes and delinquency.
In a formal manifestation, Gatchalian argued that students may still fall under the temptation of entering Internet cafes and computer shops to skip classes despite the presence of “child-friendly computers”.
To be less restrictive, the lawmaker manifested that he is amenable to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. time restriction instead of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. time written in the draft bill.
The TWG is expecting to pass the substitute version of the “Free Wi-Fi and Internet Café Regulation Act” once it finalizes the time restriction along with other issues in its next deliberation. (Tim Alcantara)