MANILA MAYOR Francisco Moreno Domagoso said he is currently in talks with the private sector on his plans to put up modern phone booths offering free calls and WiFi access, particularly in the University Belt (U-Belt) area.

“I am now talking to the private sector if they can provide such facilities particularly in the U-Belt area; and I hope in the coming weeks, there will be more public free access to communication in two things: the old-school way, by calling for free, and the new technology which is the Internet,” Mr. Moreno told BusinessWorld in Pasay City Thursday.

He added: “We initially showed the proof of concept of the public telephone (similar to a scheme in) New York. What New York did was that they took away all those old telephone booths, and they introduced a new machine that provides free WiFi, and you can make calls, video calls. So we imported that machine… We asked the private sector to donate and they did. We put one machine at the Kartilya ng Katipunan near the Manila City Hall.”

He said the purpose was to determine demand. “After that (we discovered that) demand and traffic were there, so I think there is a need. It was about testing what we need before we spend money on it, so that’s how I try to be efficient as much as possible,” he said.

Mr. Moreno also said he is looking at “50” hotspots in Manila, adding that the units have a radius of about 100 meters with 500 people accessing the service simultaneously.

He added that a memorandum of understanding is needed to realize the project, though he is satisfied with the proof of concept. — Arjay L. Balinbin