Wireless in Argao

MUNICIPAL WI-FI. I spent a day in Argao 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. When I say free, I mean full Internet access without having to enter passwords or keys. At least full “http” access, I don’t mind not being able to use the other protocols.

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 zones ofPLDT and Globe for their customers’ wireless Internet access.

But not Argao.

The municipal government turned its beautiful plaza into a free Wi-Fi zone. There you are, surrounded by Spanish-era buildings, three cannons, beautiful masonry, and music that comes from cleverly hidden speakers, and you have free high-speed wireless Internet access.

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 is covered by wireless Internet signal—but it’s a start. Its 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 thenaccess the Internet. I opened my Asus Eee PC, which is such amarvelous 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 beon a quick vacation—to “get away from it all” and my family was already on their way to the museum.

VOIP. 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 themvia Skype or the application itself, if they’re also using it. The call is free because you’re connecting through Wi-Fi.

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

OTHER SPOTS. 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 theMahayahay 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 and start offering free Wi-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 athird class municipality might be a pipe dream or a financial nightmare—remember how much Lapu-Lapu City Hall paid for computers it distributed to schools?

(Max Limpag maintains a blog at max.limpag.com)