AAPka Free Wi-Fi: Can Kejriwal Keep His Promise?

Posted on May 27, 2015 in Politics, Society

By Sanjana Sanghi

The thing with promises are, they facilitate fantasy. They instantaneously create a world filled with hope and positivity, and reality takes a back seat. Similar seems the scenario concerning AAP’s run in Delhi, following its flamboyant and rather brave promises. Promises regarding more “affordable” electricity, free water, and of course, free Wi-Fi. The only difference is that now, all the difficulties and complications that this dawning reality brings with it, are staring into the face of AAP’s administration. Adarsh Shastri, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of IT spoke of this new development, revealing several essential details. Here’s a sneak peak at what his teasing package of free Wi-Fi in Delhi looks like.

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1. It’s Free
But, only when you use it for “basic purposes“, such as e-mail, web browsing, Facebook, Twitter. Downloading media, video chats or streaming videos will however be chargeable.

2. It’s Everywhere
But, not at your office, home or school. This scheme also excludes farm belts, rural belts, and green belts. All public places – markets, parks, metro stations and high density areas are covered, totalling up to 60% of Delhi’s area.

3. Speed Of 514 kbps
But, with a usage restriction of 50 MB a day. Once this limit has been exhausted, you can pay extra and avail the services.

In a 3 day long discussion organized by the Department of Information Technology and the Delhi Dialogue Commission, experts from the government and private sector deliberated upon financial models, technical architecture, policy framework and regulatory issues which deal with Wi-Fi services.

The Government’s plan of action seems to involve the following:

1. Identifying 1000 places along with the Ground Water Survey and Development Agency to set up 50,000-80,000 hotspots.

2. Installing Access Points which will cover around 50 square km of area.

3. Utilizing the Wi-Fi services to eliminate corruption and increase efficiency by making close to 219 government services available online. E-governance services with digital signatures and online forms will be introduced so as to evade physical inconvenience and the possibility of giving bribes.

4. Recognizing the scale of this project, with 2 crore wireless devices accessing the Internet in Delhi. If at a single point, even 25-30% users are active, about 50 lakh users serve as prime audience for targeted advertising.

5. Designing an appropriate revenue model as strategic advertising and investment can bring in a monthly revenue of 20 crores for the government.

This project is undeniably potentially revolutionary, however keeping the dynamics of an exploding urban conglomeration such as the Delhi-NCR, the complexities and obstacles are several. The demarcation between “public and private” in many unauthorized residential set ups, or illegal commercial locations is blurred. This inhibits installation of hotspots in such areas as usage may exceed expected limits. The investment required is enormous, therefore greater involvement of private parties is called for.

The most pressing issue is the fact that the areas where free Wi-Fi was already announced functional, such as Connaught Place or Khan Market, it rarely ever works. If such is the situation in Delhi’s prime, central locations, we can only hope that in the far ends of this vast city, the free Wi-Fi services will be as efficient as we predict them to be.

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