The discussion and debates over the possibility of free internet in India to poor have been making rounds for the last two years. Unfortunately, all the efforts and recommendations by TRAI in regards to the matter have been flushed down the drain by the Indian government.
Indian Government along with Telecom Commission, the supreme body responsible for all decisions related to telecom matters, didn’t find merit in the recommendations by TRAI and shot down the proposal offering free internet in India to connect poor in remote areas and villages with the Internet.
Telecom Commission (TC) believe that considering the ridiculously declined data tariffs and strong penetration of internet in India, there is no need to kick-off a project aiming to offer free internet to poor in India.
TRAI proposed to set up ‘data aggregators’ to offer free internet to poor in remote areas and villages in India through telco-agnostic schemes in a non-discriminatory manner. The Regulator proposed that poor in India would be entitled to 100MB free internet data every month from data aggregators. The regulatory body also clarified in its proposal that the move would be funded by Universal Fund Service (UFS) responsible for connecting people in remote areas and villages with telecom services.
“We do not want a set-up where aggregators would need to be registered or licensed out, and thereafter monitored. The TC felt that we do not need these kinds of data intermediaries operating in the market,” said the secretary of Telecom Ministry.
TC believes that incentivising the data tariffs, to push the growth, during the time when the price of data and voice service in India is already the lowest in the world is not required.
Free Internet In India: A Distant Dream For Poor
The decision may appear disappointing to many, but it doesn’t question the intention of the government. The ongoing Bharat Net program, which is aiming to connect 1 lakh villages with the high-speed optic fibre, is already progressing at a satisfactory rate and is funded by the government.
In December last year, the Indian government claimed that the Bharat Net program is already halfway through, and 1.61 lakh village panchayats are now connected with the broadband.
It was reported that, so far, over Rs 110 billion has already been invested in Bharat Net project by the Indian government.
However, on the other side, there are reports claiming that Bharat Net project is a derailed project as only 2.5% of 250,000 villages have been connected with broadband under the project.
The Bharat Net project has a deadline for March 31, 2019. And even if we believe on the latest figures released by the government of India on Bharat Net project, connecting all the villages with broadband still seems to be a distant dream. Free internet in India for poor may become reality one day, but the day is not going to come anytime soon.