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Munisipyo Wi-Fi

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I spent a day in Argao recently and was pleasantly surprised to find several dependable and free Wi-Fi hotspots. I was surprised because in Cebu City, free Wi-Fi access isn’t as widespread as they say it is in places such as Davao City.

Many shops, at least the last time I went warbiking or going around on a motorcycle to check for free Wi-Fi hotspots, just depend on the services of Globe and Airborne Access for their customers’ wireless Internet access.

MUNISIPYO WI-FI. A man browses the Internet at the Argao town plaza. The Municipal Government turned the Spanish-era pueblo into a free wireless Internet zone last year. Click on photo to enlarge.
MUNISIPYO WI-FI. A man browses the Internet at the Argao town plaza. The Municipal Government turned the Spanish-era pueblo into a free wireless Internet zone last year. 

But not Argao.

The municipal government has turned it’s beautiful plaza into a free Wi-Fi zone. There you are—surrounded by Spanish-era buildings, three cannons once used to fight pirates, beautiful masonry, and music that comes from cleverly-hidden speakers—and you have free high-speed wireless Internet access.

It was good they were playing Spanish guitars the night I was there (the previous night it was Bisrock), had they been playing Gregorian chants, I would have had an uncontrollable urge to dance like Mel Brook’s Torquemada and video-stream the Inquisition.

I was told that the Wi-Fi zone was set up last year by Argao town officials. Now it isn’t, technically, municipal Wi-Fi—the term means the entire city or town or a major part of it is covered by wireless Internet signal—but it’s a start. It’s munisipyo Wi-Fi.

When I was at the plaza on a Saturday night, I saw one person park his multi-cab near the Argao town hall, take out his laptop and then access the Internet. I opened my Asus Eee PC, which is such a marvelous piece of gadget, and checked my e-mail. The connection was relatively fast.

I wasn’t able to do speed tests, though, because I was supposed to be on a quick vacation—to get away for “it” all and my family was already on their way to the museum.

BEAUTIFUL PLAZA, HOT ZONE. Argao deployed free Wi-Fi in its Spanish-era pueblo or town center last year. Click on photo to enlarge.
BEAUTIFUL PLAZA, HOT ZONE. Argao deployed free Wi-Fi in its Spanish-era pueblo or town center last year. Click on photo to enlarge.

I asked Ruel Rigor, who showed us around, on the extent of the Wi-Fi spot’s usage and he said only a few locals use it.

The availability of free Wi-Fi in the town plaza is such a huge help for tourists and locals who need to access the Internet.

It also opens the possibility of using the signal in the plaza to make VOIP calls for free. If you have a Symbian-based phone, you can use Fring with Wi-Fi not only to chat with your friends but also call them via Skype or the application itself, if they’re also using it. The call is free because you’re connecting through Wi-Fi connection.

I was able to chat with some contacts using Fring but none of my Skype contacts were online when I was in the town center so I couldn’t test calling with Fring.

Wi-Fi access isn’t just limited to the area near the Argao town hall. I was able to detect another Wi-Fi access point, albeit secured, a few meters away. The resort I stayed in near the Mahayahay beach resort also offered uninterrupted free Wi-Fi access. The signal covers part of the public beach resort so you can probably get away with piggybacking near the beach, even at night.

I hope other local officials, especially in tourism areas, follow Argao’s Wi-Fi deployment. Heck I hope more Cebu shops follow Looc Garden Resort, where we stayed, and start offering free W-Fi to costumers.

The last time I was in a coffee shop in Ayala several months back, I was told to buy a card when I asked about Wi-Fi access. But things are starting to change. I’ve been told many coffee shops are starting to offer free Wi-Fi to costumers.

Asking the city where I live in, Lapu-Lapu, to follow the example of a 3rd class municipality like Argao might be a pipe dream or a financial nightmare. Lapu Lapu City Hall, after all, was accused of purchasing computers for nearly P50,000 when the specifications indicated these cost less than half the contract amount.

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By Max Limpag

Max is a journalist and blogger based in Cebu City, Philippines. He is co-founder of the journalism start-up InnoPub Media.