Net Neutrality

The internet is an epic source of self-employment and skill development. If all 6,40,000 villages in India could get affordable internet, we could soon see web developers, entrepreneurs and internet services giants emerging from rural areas of India. The key enabler of technology is affordability. Dr. Hans Rosling, a Norwegian statistician says that South Asian and African economies have seen a magical transformation of skipping the needs of life. People who didn’t get chappals could get cycles over the period. The same happened here in India. The people who didn’t get a chance to use landline telephones are now using smartphones which run on latest 4G LTE internet. 20 crore Indian has a 4G connection on their smartphones. A 4G feature phone from reputed brands would be a game changer. Washing machines and refrigerators are common in Indian homes whereas it’s a privilege to have one in a developed economy.

The gap between people who use internet and people who don’t is shrinking. 3 billion of us are online just email, facebook or twitter post away. The ambitious program of BHARATNET aims to provide high speed 100 Mbps internet through an optical fibre to 6,40,000 villages. With this comes IPTV services, online MOOCs education, internet banking and the whole range of government IT services. With an abundance of the internet, India could achieve the dream of e-governance and less cash economy.

BharatNet, a flagship project of the Government of India to provide Broadband services in rural and remote areas has entered in service provisioning phase. As on 05.11.2017, Optical Fibre Cable (OFC) connectivity has been achieved in 1,03,275 GPs by laying fibre for 2,38,677 km. Due to several measures initiated to accelerate the end-to-end connectivity, GPON equipment has been installed in 85,506 GPs and 75,082 GPs are Services Ready. The total project outlay of BharatNet project is estimated at Rs. 45,000 crores.

Under Phase 1 of the BharatNet project, high-speed broadband internet has been made available to more than 75,000 Gram Panchayats till the first week of November. By Dec 2017, all 1, 00, 000 GPs will be operational on the BharatNet infrastructure. Digital India, to provide Digital Services in rural and remote areas, is one of the priority areas of the Government. An ICRIER report estimated that a 10 percent growth in Internet usage will raise GDP of India by 3.3 percent. We expect that around Rs 4.5 lakh crore can be added to India’s GDP once Bharat Net project is completed. It will release the untapped demand, which will benefit the economy as well as the citizens.

For asymmetrical bandwidth between the block to GPs, the charges per annum varies from Rs.700/- per Mbps for up to 10Mbps and Rs. 200/- per Mbps for 1 Gbps. However, for symmetrical bandwidth between block to GP, charges have been prescribed as Rs.1000/- per Mbps up to 10Mbps, and Rs.500/- per Mbps for 100 Mbps per annum. Tariff for any intermediate Bandwidth shall be calculated on pro-rata basis.

Further, the discount of 5% to 25% have been offered for taking bandwidth in more than 1000 GPs to more than 25,000 GPs in a single application. Further, to lower the entry barriers, port charges at block and GP have been waived off. Tariffs for dark fibre are prescribed as Rs.2250/- per fibre per km per annum for service providers and Government agencies.

After such initiatives have been taken by the government, Telecom Service Providers have come forward for utilizing the BharatNet connectivity. Airtel has shown interest in 10000 GPs for taking 1 Gbps connectivity on lease while Reliance Jio, Vodafone and Idea are interested in taking 100 Mbps connectivity on lease in about 30000, 2000 and 1000 GPs respectively. For each gram panchayat, at least five wifi hotspots will be rolled out for continuous connectivity.

A report by Open Signal stated that 84% of India’s village have LTE networks and we can expect a 99% 4G coverage in India by September 2018. With a load of data consumption shifting from LTE to fibre optic high-speed broadband, the average speeds of LTE network are expected to reach global standards. With the high-speed internet available at rates as low as Rs 300 per month, India will move ahead to a golden era, an era of data abundance. There will be an abundance of data available in the digital world and if it’s harnessed effectively and correctly than it can provide terrific insights.

– Chaitanya Kulkarni

Source: PIB.

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