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India To Offer Free Broadband by 2009

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the now-we-need-that-over-here dept.

Networking 245

codecracker007 writes "The Government of India is planning to introduce free 2 mbps broadband for all residents of the Indian subcontinent by 2009. The expected service shall be launched by the government owned telecom operators BSNL and MTNL. Quoting from the article: 'The government proposes to offer all citizens of India free, high-speed broadband connectivity by 2009, through the state-owned telecom service providers BSNL and MTNL. While consumers would cheer, the move holds the potential to kill the telecom business as we know it.' The India Times has an extensive editorial on the decision. It must be mentioned that the Indian government and its autonomous regulatory bodies are very proactive in holding the consumer interests above the operators', managing to reduce the long distance and wireless tariffs by a up to factor of 20 in less than 7 years."

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245 comments

It's not free (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18900201)

You can call it "free" if you'd like to, but I doubt that installers will work for free and manufacturers will make equipment for free. So, what you really mean instead of "free" is "paid for through taxation". It's no more free than having police, roads, or congress.

Re:It's not free (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18900397)

Thanks milhouse. Do you honestly think that anyone here actually thought that there was no source of funding for the project?
Come up with a term that concisely distinguishes between a pay-to-play broadband service and the act of offering a service at zero cost to its citizenry. Hey how about "free"?

Next time someone offers you a free beer why don't you refuse because you want paid professionals making your beverage products rather than volunteers. They're probably dumpster diving for hops and scrap metal to make the cans, huh? Don't ask where they get the yeast.

Subsidized (3, Insightful)

goldspider (445116) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900523)

I believe the term you are looking for is "subsidized".

Government is empowered by people who don't know the difference between subsidized and free. Thanks for doing your part!

Re:Subsidized (1)

phaggood (690955) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900841)

>Government is empowered by people who don't know the difference between subsidized and free.

There's no difference? Cool! So where do I get in line to pick up my subsidized college education, subsizided corn and subsidized gasoline all for free?

Re:Subsidized (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18900937)

Reading comprehension for teh win!!

You might want to give that another shot...

Re:Subsidized (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#18901209)

They are not mutually exclusive. Something can be subsidized AND free, or subsidized and available at some cost.

Re:It's not free (2, Insightful)

ephedream (899351) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900491)

Ok, I agree that maybe for India this is not the best thing if most of their population is destitute but in general, I think this kind of idea is great. I live in Canada and let me say I've been praying for government-funded fiber to the home for the last few years now. This would be much better to me than a telco that doesn't want to do anything unless the profits are enormous. I doubt that any cable/dsl companies will offer affordable fiber in the near future. Of course, if the government ever tried this, the telcos would definitely raise a stink about unfair competition, etc.

I say give free broadband to the masses!

I doubt this will happen any time soon, though...

Re:It's not free (2, Insightful)

goldspider (445116) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900613)

You wouldn't be at all concerned about your government controlling yours and everybody's Internet access? Just wait till some legislative do-gooder slaps restrictions and monitoring on it, in the interest of national security, the Children, etc. of course. I doubt you'd be so enthusiastic about that.

And you do realize that "government-funded", you're still paying for it. You just don't know how much.

If I were you, I wouldn't be comfortable with either.

Re:It's not free (1)

klingens (147173) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900683)

They already do monitor it in the EU. As a Bonus the ISPs and telcos have to foot the bill for it too. Ain't that nice of the government? No higher taxes!

Re:It's not free (1)

ephedream (899351) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900717)

You wouldn't be at all concerned about your government controlling yours and everybody's Internet access? Just wait till some legislative do-gooder slaps restrictions and monitoring on it, in the interest of national security, the Children, etc. of course. I doubt you'd be so enthusiastic about that. You're right, I do fear the possibility it would be much easier for gov'ts to monitor everyone's access and see who's doing what when. Although, I think in the future, it won't matter whether or not private companies run ISPs, the government will be able to monitor it just as well anyway. In any case, I think the only reliable solution to this is the use of encryption. Of course, getting kicked off the internet for pirating or using too much bandwidth sounds like not a lot of fun... As for cost, I have no doubt it would be cheaper if the gov't ran it. One nice thing about private ISPs though is that they whine when the gov't asks them to set up costly surveillance equipment... an inadvertent perk of capitalism.

Re:It's not free (1)

electrosoccertux (874415) | more than 6 years ago | (#18901019)

You wouldn't be at all concerned about your government controlling yours and everybody's Internet access? Just wait till some legislative do-gooder slaps restrictions and monitoring on it, in the interest of national security, the Children, etc. of course. I doubt you'd be so enthusiastic about that.

And you do realize that "government-funded", you're still paying for it. You just don't know how much.

If I were you, I wouldn't be comfortable with either.
Ours is going to do this anyways. Might as well do it while cutting out the requirement to make as much profit as possible off your users.

Re:It's not free (1)

Rukie (930506) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900647)

Here in the US the Cable/DSL companies charge boatloads and agree not to encroach in each other's territories because it is more profitable when there is no competition. They each take half a zip code, but at any one location you cannot get both services. (Therefore avoiding the FCC? rules of having more than one company in a zip code.) So technically their is competition within the zip code, but not at each household. What a crock, where's my subsidized wifi! :-D

I doubt anytime soon that we will have free/subsidized broadband. I do however hope that the companies are forced to compete with each other, and that WIFI starts to become free from individuals/companies across the US.

Re:It's not free (1)

Saint V Flux (915378) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900751)

There is no such thing as "government funded" or "free" when it comes to government projects - all it means is that EVERYONE is forced to pay for it, regardless of if they want it or not.

Re:It's not free (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900755)

I live in Canada and let me say I've been praying for government-funded fiber to the home for the last few years now.

You want this guy to be providing your Fiber?
"A member of Canada's ruling Conservative party [slashdot.org] has pledged to "clean up" the Internet with new bill that would mandate ISP licensing, know-your-subscriber rules, and allow the government to order ISPs to block content."

Re:It's not free (5, Insightful)

sid0 (1062444) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900517)

Yes, and that's the trouble. Rule #1: There's no such thing as a free lunch.

The government here in India wastes too much money on such frivolous ideas, and on services to political class (free travel, free elecricity, free telephone calls, you name it). In the end their luxury is financed by us, the middle class. Every year the rate of taxation is increased (a tax on "services" has gone up from 8% to 12.36% in the past few years), or an entirely new tax is added.

There's no other solution but to cut down on this stupidity and direct the money towards the poorest of the poor. There will be plenty of scope to reduce taxes afterwards.

taxation (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18900623)

Well, at least indian govt. is not sponsoring a war 'paid for through taxation".

Re:It's not free (5, Insightful)

LeDopore (898286) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900703)

So, what you really mean instead of "free" is "paid for through taxation".

The big question is "paid how much?" The three biggest expenses for big ISPs are:
  1. "Last mile" connectivity
  2. Advertising and promotion
  3. Billing & accounting
With community- or government-provided networks, #2 and #3 go away completely, and most of #1 goes away too. Here's why.

Most of the expense of getting residents Internet connectivity comes from connecting up the last few miles to individuals' homes. ISPs could in principal do away with a wired "last mile" with the right wireless technology, but that would make it easy for people to share their connections and passwords with neighbours. Instead, ISPs are charging you a premium so they can keep you from sharing your Internet connection when they insist on using cable or DSL.

We're at the point now where the inefficiency inherent in having to advertise, charge for and segregate Internet service is greater than the inefficiency inherent in public sector projects, which means that financially it's better now to have government- and community-provided Internet connectivity.

Re:It's not free (1)

Saint V Flux (915378) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900863)

And of course you're ignoring the fact that wireless is significantly slower than a wired connection merely to promote government run everything. If you want to share with your neighbors, get a wireless router and let them mooch for free or charge them half of what the bill is.

"which means that financially it's better now to have government- and community-provided Internet connectivity." Right - it's financially better for someone who doesn't want internet or broadband (because they either don't want to pay for it or don't feel a need for it) to pay for YOU to have internet.

Rubbish! (2, Interesting)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900891)

You have NO IDEA what the costs of running a broadband network are! You left out
-My $1.4 million salary [newnetworks.com]
-$2 - $7 million/yr in campaign contributions [opensecrets.org]
-Dozens of attorneys to sue Vonage out of existence
...and a bunch of things I'm not allowed to talk about
Mateo LeFou, CEO, Verizon/AT&T

Re:It's not free (3, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900793)

It's no more free than having police, roads, or congress.
You're right, but paying for something doesn't necessarily make you poorer. If it's a good investment, you get back more than you put in. India isn't doing this because they think websurfing is more important than clean water, they're doing it because computers are a big and growing part of their economy. This is a bold, competitive investment.

Broadband -ne Food (3, Insightful)

Syncerus (213609) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900227)

Uhh, maybe it's me and my misplaced sense of priorities, but you might want to help the starving people dying people in the street before you give them free prOn.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Re:Broadband -ne Food (5, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900245)

There's an old proverb that relates to this. Something to the effect of "If you give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. If you give a man free porn, he'll die with a smile on his face."

Re:Broadband -ne Food (2, Insightful)

Moggyboy (949119) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900283)

Just like the States should spend it's budget on education and health care before invading another country. Can you spell hypocritical?

Re:Broadband -ne Food (4, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900333)

Can you spell hypocritical?
Um, H-Y-P ... dang ... can I hear it used in a sentence please?

Re:Broadband -ne Food (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900573)

Um, H-Y-P ... dang ... can I hear it used in a sentence please?

Is a hippo critical to having a proper large mammal house at a zoo?

Re:Broadband -ne Food (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900369)

Good reply! Only vaguely related, but it bashes the US so you get a virtual +1, Super Intelligent from me.

Re:Broadband -ne Food (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18900379)

Uhhh it does spend on health and education, much too much in fact. The more $ the government throws at these things, the sicker and more stupid Americans become. Ironic isn't it?

Re:Broadband -ne Food (0, Offtopic)

phaggood (690955) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900745)

> Just like the States should spend it's budget on education and health care before invading another country.

Dammit! Where are my mod points? Can somebody PLEASE dump a mountain of mod points on this comment?
+2^10^10 should about do it.

Re:Broadband -ne Food (5, Insightful)

Infonaut (96956) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900359)

...you might want to help the starving people dying people in the street before you give them free prOn

How about the idea that by putting in a more modern infrastructure, more high-paying modern jobs will be created, and all boats will rise? By your logic, it was a bad idea for the TVA to provide rural electrification, because people in poverty don't need electricity, they need food.

I don't know that free broadband will have the effect the Indian government thinks it will. It may not even get built by 2009. But if the government wants to stimulate economic growth, it isn't an unreasonable component of a larger plan to make it easier to do business in India.

Re:Broadband -ne Food (1, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900467)

Free internet is a good thing, but if the people in poverty don't have electricity, than how are they supposed to use the internet?

Re:Broadband -ne Food (3, Interesting)

Dazza (2865) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900783)

Just having a wander through the streets of Delhi makes you realise how daft this idea of offering every citizen broadband is.

I was having a conversation recently with a well educated, wealthy, middle class Indian lady. She was telling me how high the average Indian wage was now. I was staggered at the figure she quoted, which, upon some questioning didn't include anyone not 'middle class'. Or, in other words, most of the country.

Something tells me this is the type of person who decided it would be offered to 'every citizen', for a suitable definition of 'every citizen'

There's a huge shortage of landlines for a start, which help the mobile boom ( again, for the middle classes ) and can be seen in the vast number of STD/ISD booths all over Delhi.

And this is just Delhi. Are they going to cable up Srinagar or Jammu in the next couple of years ? somehow I doubt it.

It's a laudable aim, but a dose of realism is needed I think

Re:Broadband -ne Food (1)

porcupine8 (816071) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900821)

Well, electricity can provide heat both for cooking and for not freezing. Though the people living in two-room huts (one room of which is for the livestock) probably aren't going to benefit from either the electricity or the broadband.

Re:Broadband -ne Food (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18901147)

Gee, I really wonder how they are going to keep a massive broadband offering afloat if they can't even keep electrical power or cable television on in the major cities. I lived in India for 6 months working for my current employer. I've spent time in Bangalore and Mysore. In Bangalore, you were lucky on the weekends if some cow didn't decide to chew on a cable line, or a rickshaw decided not to hit a telephone poll (okay I'm kidding, though I was in a rickshaw accident), but when these services went out, noone even worked on the weekends to repair these things until Monday. I would regularly be in the city in a shop and the power would go out for the whole block, and you'd have a motley crew of shopkeepers go run off somewhere up the street to get the power back on repeatedly.

I'd like to see the India put some effort into transportation infrastructure and policies that go along with using roadways. Gridlock becomes redefined in a country where traffic lanes, right of way, stop lights, and speed bumps are a barely a suggestion to those using them.

Re:Broadband -ne Food (3, Insightful)

Falesh (1000255) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900417)

It's not quite as simple as that. India is getting a higher and higher GDP from the tech industry. If they pump money into that then the state will get more money to put into feeding its poor. If they spend the money on feeding their poor and none on development they will stay a poor country for longer.

Re:Broadband -ne Food (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900901)

You missed an important detail, which is that the poor cannot wait for the wonderful new India to deliver them a decent food source, given that they're going hungry now.

Re:Broadband -ne Food (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18900561)

I was gonna say something similar. But by the time this thing rolls out, those people should all be dead and no longer a problem right? After that, you should only have those that are gainfully employed left over right?

Or perhaps the broadband connections will actually extend to the boxes, huts and lean-tos that the homeless and hungry spend their time in?

Re:Broadband -ne Food (1)

SmellTheCoffee (808375) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900619)

Why do I hear so stereotypical comments on /. everytime there is a news story reported from other parts of the world? If it is a news story from Europe, it is Europe/EU bashing. If the story is from Asia, suddenly people start making supposedly logical arguments about feeding the poor before doing anything else. Same doesn't apply to the stories from here (US) but we still have some of the same problems.

Don't get me wrong, I agree wholeheartedly with the idea of feeding the poor. But since we are talking about misplaced priorities, instead of the positive aspect the actual news story, which is more infrastructure, more access to knowledge and information etc, I thought I should remind Katrina, Healthcare, Jobs, Economy, immigration etc to the commenters here.

Re:Broadband -ne Food (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18900631)

> Of course, I could be wrong.

You'd have to find the starving people first, of course.

Re:Broadband -ne Food (1)

Syncerus (213609) | more than 6 years ago | (#18901161)

I didn't know you could have milli-bits per second (4, Funny)

LotsOfPhil (982823) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900247)

So you get 2 mbps. I guess that means 1 bit every 500 seconds. 1 billion people in India, 2 million bits per second. That's not that tough, but I guess giving everyone somewhere to plug in would take some infrastructure.

Slashdot down, here's the summary (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18900275)

India To Offer Free Broadband by 2009

Posted by Zonk on Friday April 27, @10:32AM

from the now-we-need-that-over-here dept.

Networking The Internet IT Politics

codecracker007 writes "The Government of India is planning to introduce free 2 mbps broadband for all residents of the Indian subcontinent by 2009. The expected service shall be launched by the government owned telecom operators BSNL and MTNL. Quoting from the article: 'The government proposes to offer all citizens of India free, high-speed broadband connectivity by 2009, through the state-owned telecom service providers BSNL and MTNL. While consumers would cheer, the move holds the potential to kill the telecom business as we know it.' The India Times has an extensive editorial on the decision. It must be mentioned that the Indian government and its autonomous regulatory bodies are very proactive in holding the consumer interests above the operators', managing to reduce the long distance and wireless tariffs by a up to factor of 20 in less than 7 years."

not a troll... (-1, Troll)

teknopurge (199509) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900307)

...but shouldn't they worry about educating people on how to use the broadband? There has been enough stink lately made of the shambles their education system is in.

Re:not a troll... (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900401)

...but shouldn't they worry about educating people on how to use the broadband?
Please choose one of the following responses:

a) Just plug a Windows computer into a broadband connection and the malware will take care of the rest.
b) If they need help I'm sure there's a local call center around.
c) They can look it up on the internet because Wikipedia & HowStuffWorks can answer any question posed by man, can't they?

Re:not a troll... (3, Insightful)

HellYeahAutomaton (815542) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900495)

Technology arrives to the masses in a curve, the first being early adopters,
the middle being somewhat savvy people, and inevitably the the laggards.
By the time every laggard has access to the technology it will be an expected
commodity. A good example of this is the telephone.

If the broadband is "too hard to use", it wouldn't have ever taken off and made it past the early adopters.

Making technology a commodity is more important than trying to push out an education program.
 

More Outsourcing? (3, Interesting)

OakLEE (91103) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900327)

The article raises a few issues. The first of which is what level of connectivity are we talking about? Does "access" mean a line to every home, or just access to a line by every household. The former would be a boon to all citizens (especially those living in tenement slums). The latter isn't as impressive as one could establish this by having access to one computer in each village.

I think the greater issue, however, is the potential boon this might be to companies looking to outsource operations. One of the driving forces behind outsourcing is the penetration of cheap telecom into emerging markets. Here, you'd have a situation where companies wouldn't even need to pay for internet access to hire workers. They could just have them telecommute from home. If that's the case the amount of outsourcing could increase rapidly. It's a smart decision by the Indian government, as their investment would pay off ten fold if that were case. For the American engineer, though, this is perhaps not such a good development.

Re:More Outsourcing? (1)

porcupine8 (816071) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900879)

You obviously haven't actually seen the slums in India if you think having a broadband line going into their hut would do anything at all for them. What would they plug into it, the cow's tail? There are certainly millions (hundreds of millions) of people who would benefit, but there are millions more for whom this would be mostly meaningless.

Forget about "kissing"! (1, Troll)

Random Q. Hacker (137687) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900343)

Richard Gere kissed an actress in public and they both had warrants issued for their arrest. What do you think will happen when all of these rural Indians come across pictures a tad more extreme than kissing on the interweb?!

I hope you like curry.

Re:Forget about "kissing"! (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900465)

What do you think will happen when all of these rural Indians come across pictures a tad more extreme than kissing on the interweb?!
What is "their OLPC will hit puberty right before their eyes"?

Better infrastructure = more wealth (2, Insightful)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900347)

Free broadband will, of course, result in India becoming a richer country. I am happy about that.

Overnight... (0)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900361)

Overnight, all the online grocery store websites will suddenly go down.

Seriously, the government needs to get its priorities straightened out if it thinks that internet access is the most important thing for its people.

Re:Overnight... (2, Insightful)

Frozen Void (831218) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900595)

They got their priorities right.They think farther ahead.
The free internets are not for starving people.

A Billion People can Multitask (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900889)

Seriously, the government needs to get its priorities straightened out if it thinks that internet access is the most important thing for its people.

What if it thinks it's an important thing and wants to work on more than one problem at a time?

Or what if it thinks it'll be a major economic stimulus, bolstering the economy, raising many citizens' quality of life, and thereby increasing tax revenue to the point where it's feasible for it to attack its major poverty issues?

India's Priority Listing: (5, Funny)

tdmg (881818) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900387)

1. FREE BROADBAND!!!!!
2. Feed our citizens
3. Nuke Pakistan
4. Restructure caste system
5. $1 taco Tuesday
6. AIDS prevention? ....

No Dell CS training? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18900459)

Where's Dell Customer Support on that lis? I would have figured it to be no lower than 3 or 4.

I'd love some speed first please (2, Interesting)

arun_s (877518) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900419)

If they go through with this, it'll be really cool. Maybe, before that, just one small change would make me really happy. I have a 'broadband' conncetion right now, and the speed is a blazing 256 kbps. That's because that's what our Department of Telecommunications has defined [dot.gov.in] the minimum speed to be, for an ISP to call its service as a broadband connection. Disappointing, somewhat.
Btw 256 kbps is also the maximum they're offering in my area in my city, I can't even upgrade if I want to.

Re:I'd love some speed first please (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900515)

What area in what city? Seriously. I live in Canada, and every city has broadband. At least 1 MBit if not 6 0r 8. Tiny little rural towns are another thing altogether, but I don't think there's a town with more than 10,000 people that doesn't have real broadband.

Re:I'd love some speed first please (1)

arun_s (877518) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900759)

I'm in Bangalore of all places. Check out this page [airtelbroadband.in] from my ISP, they mention a max speed of 512 kbps.
(Their service and support is pretty cool and I'm happy with them on the whole, so I'll forgive them their flash-filled website that doesn't even open properly in Opera)

Re:I'd love some speed first please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18901295)

That is the sort of scenario where you "vote with your feet."

You know what this means? (1)

FreakerSFX (256894) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900431)

The amount of Indian porn is going to increase exponentially.

How can a country that has infrastructure and famine problems in some areas (a recent study suggested 47% of Indian children suffered from malnutrition) manage to provide this?

Re:You know what this means? (1)

SilentProwler (1094191) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900565)

Each system has its imperfections. US with its meagre population has not been able to control poverty and homelessness, compared to that India would have much more to face. Amidst all the uphill task this is a necessary good. About putting your foot through the monitor please do entertain yourself. Facts for an American consumer 1 % of profits coming from US for any hardware manufacturing firm (Cisco/JNPR) is max 2 % of profits are marginal in Asian countries What that means is that while you pay $50 for a 6Mb (comcast) connection the same costs about $25 in India. Because its a 2Mb connection its going to be further lower to $8 per person. So gloat all you may its cheaper to have free internet in India

We should swap the children (0, Offtopic)

voislav98 (1004117) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900799)

With so many American kids being overweight, we should institute an exchange program, American for Indian kids. American kids would slim down and get better education, benefiting from the free broadband and Indian kids would fatten up and get dumber. Too many overachievers over there anyways.

Re:You know what this means? (5, Insightful)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900887)

The amount of Indian porn is going to increase exponentially.

How can a country that has infrastructure and famine problems in some areas (a recent study suggested 47% of Indian children suffered from malnutrition) manage to provide this?


Well, first off, America has decent connectivity. Not the best, but decent. I have something 4 Mbps to my current house, and 8 Mbps is an inexpensive upgrade. Some regions have fiber to the home at substantially greater rates.

Yet, when I walk around downtown Denver, I am constantly walking past homeless people who are asking me for spare change so that they can eat/buy booze that night to consume while sleeping on a sidewalk. Whenever some new technology intiative is announced here in the US, I never see hoardes of posters complaining about American priorities. I never see people in large numbers saying how we need to make sure that absolutely everybody in the country has food and shelter before we allow anybody to do anything else. Yet, whenever India has some technology initiative, it seems like a very substantial percentage of the comments are nothing but comments about how India needs to feed the hungry.

So, no country has no hungry people. No country has no homeless people. It's impossible to "solve" the problem 100% before doing anything else.

Second, how the fuck do you think India will be able to feed their hungry? They just magically decide it's a good idea, and everybody gets fed, and then everybody gets on with their lives all happy and dandy? No. They need to create an infrastructure where more people are more educated, and can do better jobs in order to grow their economy so that all those hungry people can get jobs and feed themselves. Internet access for everybody is potentially a huge step forward in this aspect. you know the old "teach a man to fish" wisdom, of course. Well, give a man efficient internet access and he can post fishing tutorials on You-Tube and teach everybody to fish. Not into fishing? Fine. Give a man high speed internet access and he can easily set up an online store to sell his rugs or hats or novelty oversized fingernails overseas. Anything you can sell overseas means money coming into the economy, the tax base growing off of foreign money, and more leftover money for homeless shelters.

See how this works?

Service level will be poor (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18900475)

For any company that sets up offices in India, bypassing the public telecom system is job 1. When you see a picture of big-wig executives showing off their snazzy India facility, see if you can spot the satellite uplink on the roof. Believe me, it's there.


My former employer built an office in India. The prices we were quoted for internet bandwidth were roughly 8X what we paid in the US. In the end, we settled for a quarter of T1 speed for about double the US price. In exchange for all of this, the throughput sucked. Packet latency and loss were simply miserable. The parent article's quote about "...regulators are very proactive in holding the consumer interests above the operators" is total BS as far as I'm concerned.


Power is free in India, which leads to overconsumption and underinvestment in the power grid. Politically, free power is untouchable, yet there is no money available to make it reliable. Anyone who truly needs power learns to generate their own on-site. The same holds true for bandwidth -- bring your own.

Re:Service level will be poor (1)

sid0 (1062444) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900775)

FYI, power is free only to farmers, and only in some states. Businesses and industries are charged hefty premiums across all states.

And yes, it is untouchable. When something scarce is made free it loses its value -- so you see farmers misusing the power they get. Good economics = bad politics.

pro consumer = no tariffs (2, Insightful)

darjen (879890) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900483)

It must be mentioned that the Indian government and its autonomous regulatory bodies are very proactive in holding the consumer interests above the operators', managing to reduce the long distance and wireless tariffs by a up to factor of 20 in less than 7 years."
If they were really pro-consumer, they wouldn't have any tariffs to begin with. All this statement does is congratulate them for reducing a situation they caused in the first place. Hardly "proactive".

Re:pro consumer = no tariffs (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900869)

If they were really pro-consumer, they wouldn't have any tariffs to begin with. All this statement does is congratulate them for reducing a situation they caused in the first place. Hardly "proactive".

What, as opposed to the US who is allegedly pro "free trade" and the like, but then slaps on protectionist import tarrifs, continues to subsidize their domestic industries, and refuses to abide by their treaty obligations?

India is hardly the only country guilty of this. Every damned country does things which go against either the consumer, or foreign competitors, or whatever.

There is no mythical land where what you're describing actually takes place.

Cheers

Increasing Competition? (2, Informative)

ChromaticDragon (1034458) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900499)

How exactly does one increase competition by reducing the number of players? Please forgive me, but I am enormously skeptical of the ultimate purposes of this plan. At the highest level, this sounds very good. Many in India have benefited greatly as the benefits of telephony became available to them, especially the poor. However... This was not due to BSNL/MTNL. It was most recently due to a host of other players that dramatically lowered prices across the board for GSM phone and internet access. Mind you, there were many in India who decided to keep their original GSM phone service with these existing operators but who were simply thrilled at how Reliance and others forced prices to drop, and drop and drop. TRAI seems to swing back and forth between who's been more effective at getting their people/policies/desires in there (cough, cough, buying them off, cough, cough). The article seems to suggest the fight is now with the big, bad international carriers. But international calls have also dropped in price over the years due to competition. It's now actually cheaper for our relatives in India to call the US than the other way around. And the statement in the article about internet traffic routing outside India and back in seems hilarious. I'd really like to dig deeper into that claim. It's obvious traffic to well known websites outside India are going to cause that effect. In essence, this entire endeavor simply seems like a policy coup by the national operators to restore their position as the monopoly. Forgive me, but I'm very skeptical about their ability to perform here given their history. And I'm horribly concerned about the long-term effect of killing off competition.

Part 2 of Plan (1)

Grashnak (1003791) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900505)

Once the free broadband is in place, it can be used by impoverished people to go online and experience virtual food, virtual education, and virtual opportunity. It will be called, "Do-over Life".

Government filtering (1)

Starteck81 (917280) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900597)

To be honest I'm surprised that China and some other countries that have similar political policies haven't done something like this. It would make censorship/filtering of the internet much easier for a regime.

Hopefully this is not where India is going but with all the fuss about Richard Gere's arrest warrant for kissing a woman on the cheek I wouldn't be too overly surprised if they used their control of the telco to filter out the video of him kissing her.

Its Possible (1)

vparkash (914055) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900663)

India has seen a telecom boost unlike any other country in the last five years so. I remember, the first time cellphones services were introduced in India, they were as expensive as anywhere else in the world. Today you can get cellular services WITHOUT a contract for as less as $10 a month . (...beat that folks!) Yes its going to take some work, but some of the basic infrastructure is already there, and I'm confident that it is a doable task

I'm excited. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18900677)

When they outsource their tech support to the West, I'll be ready to answer phone calls from angry Indians, speaking rudimentary Hindu with a thick Brooklyn accent.

"Hi, my name is, er, Virjay over hea. How can I help youse witcha computah?"

I can hardly wait to help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18900681)

...those deposed Indian princes get their ill-gotten loot out of the country.

Jefferson warned us.... (2, Insightful)

goldspider (445116) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900721)

"Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have ... The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases."

Be careful what you ask for. You might just get it.

If I had an Internet-Betting company : (1)

zukinux (1094199) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900733)

I'd say the chances that they will actually get 2mbps by 2009, is 1 : 9.00, which means, for every 1$ you will bet that it will happen, you'll get 9$.
But now you shall ask, what are the chances that I can open my own Internet-Betting company huh? tough world.

Great (0, Offtopic)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900761)

When will India offer you the right to make a public display of affection [reuters.com] without a warrant issued for your arrest [reuters.com] ? I think Gere is a shitty actor too but they were actually burning effigies of him and this chick for kissing in public. I know this is offtopic and I expect to be moderated accordingly, but Jesus. Anyone who was thinking of a vacation in India should give it a miss, even if they do have internet access :)

Off topic (1)

vparkash (914055) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900871)

Dude.... You've got to understand that in different places around the planet, there are different cultural norms & whether you agree with them or not doesn't make it right, wrong or absurd.

Re:Off topic (2, Insightful)

808140 (808140) | more than 6 years ago | (#18901027)

Having said that, it seems that this is a case of a relatively small minority of religious fundamentalists getting their panties in a bunch over nothing. Most Indians didn't seem to have a problem with it. Of course he should have been more sensitive, but kissing someone on the cheek? Come on...

Of course, here in the US we also have small but extremely vocal groups of religious fundamentalists that make similarly ridiculous statements -- but generally, we try our best to ignore them, and the courts certainly don't side with them.

Has to be wireless (1)

Adeptus_Luminati (634274) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900791)

The article wasn't very clear as to the infrastructure used to provide this, but it would really have to be wireless, because their physical infrastructure is horrible at best and there's absolutely no way they'd be able to reach dozens of thousands of remote villages with dedicated RJ45 to each mud hut.

Many (although I have no idea of the percentages) of these villages already have cell phone coverage, so really, it could just be an upgrade of the cell towers in such cases. (Other options are massive Wimax deployments - whether the fixed or roaming flavour)

I seriously doubt that beyond offering the wireless access, they are also going to offer OLPF (one laptop per family)... so this Broadband for all, is actually only broadband for those who can afford a computer with a wireless card. In hundreds, possibly thousands of those remote villages, not even 1 person would qualify. At the very least the government should also subsidise Cyber Cafes in those villages if they really want the poor to have access, otherwise, they are only offering 1/2 the package - free airwaves, but no free or affordable PCs to use those airwaves.

According to this... (http://mungee.org/archives/2005/05/19/india-targe ts-pc-penetration-of-65-by-2008/), ...In 2005, 14 out of 1,000 residents had a PC. That's 0.14 of a percent! Even if they meet their 2008 goal of 65/1000, that's still less than 1% of the population.

So really, this is just providing free internet for the richest 0.65% of the population who can afford computers, or 6.5 Million people (out of 1 billion).

Considering that probably a good 90% plus of those PC owners are in the major cities (Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, etc - about 10-20 cities)... and those cities only make up around 5% or less of India's landscape. This basically represents the following:

1. Using tax payers dollars to upgrade 95% of the cell towers throughout rural India, where extremely few people have computers & won't be able to make use of it anyway and even when they do, many remote villages only have power for 3 to 6 hours per day. Heck even Mumbai & Bangalore still have regular massive power outages monthly, if not weekly sometimes.

2. The 5% of the infrastructure cost upgrades to the urban cities will benefit the top 1% rich people who live there.

This doesn't sound to me like the most brilliant way to spend vast sums of money. Or if they are going to spend the money with the intent of getting the poor on the Internet, then they need to pony up the rest of the funds to provide free PCs as well (OLPC anyone?).

That said, with 4G technology and/or WiMAX + upcoming hand held PCs with enough power to run Windows Mobile 6 (or whatever Linux flavour cell OS) & some basic apps & the convergence of MP3 + Cell phone + basic PC functionality + ongoing declining prices of these handheld units, possibly within 5-10 years the poor may actually start to make use of this upgraded network... assuming they don't starve to death first.

One thing the government has done right historically is that long distance charges in India are extremely cheap... for foreigners like me (Canada), for Indian people living there, nobody talks for hours on the phone, because they have per minute billing for local calls... even if it is fractions of a cent per minute.

Adeptus

Right... (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900795)

All this talk about India being so hot and ready to break onto the world stage. This kind of talk has been going on for well over a decade, and nothing's happened.

India has it's fat head firmly up it's hubristic arse. There is no way anything like this can be pulled off - check back in 2009 and see what they actually end up with...more hot air and nothing to show for it. Just like less than 20% of their MBA holders being employable. India is a waste of time - steer clear and save yourself the headaches.

Re:Right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18901199)

Interesting ..... India is not hot ... I cant about other industries but in IT Services. India is just creaming competition. Did you even care to see how MNC's are hiring in India.

i!nformative niigaNigga (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18900823)

an3 I proba3ly and reports and Preferrably with an

tech support (1)

kaufmanmoore (930593) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900835)

Luckily for them they already have the call centers in place, I wonder if they have a hard time understanding them as well.

Presentation from Indian Institute of Technology (1)

osschar (442236) | more than 6 years ago | (#18900847)

I've been at a computing-related conference in India about a year ago and one of the invited local speakers was talking about reality of broad-band delivery in India. Apparently the main issues are the average income which requires about 10-times lower prices for services (same for mobile phones) and problems with power-distribution, especially in rural areas. Here's a link to his slides: http://indico.cern.ch/materialDisplay.py?contribId =430&sessionId=0&materialId=slides&confId=048 [indico.cern.ch]

While consumers would cheer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18900903)

"While consumers would cheer, the move holds the potential to kill the telecom business as we know it."

Nice use of language. Quote? Source? Didn't think so. That's your not so humble opinion isn't it. Just thrown in there like you know what you're talking about. Of course you know what they're talking about as your country has the only economic model that works.

How about this. The death of the "telecoms business as we know it" might be a good thing. I mean, all that choice and competition didn't exactly work out so well for you guys did it? Afaics the customer (not consumer you should note please) in the USA is at the mercy of local monopolies who dance to the tune of media corporations and intelligence agancies. Not exactly a free market and people power is it? And all the usual racist comments about popadoms, caste systems and people crawling the streets in abject poverty are so lame. Sigh. Pot, meet kettle and take a good look at yourself first please. The way I see it India and China will be colonising the moon while America slides back into theocratic feudalism. Perhaps you follow this example and roll out a bit of social infrastructure to help the economy recover from a pointless trillion dollar war.

A Bad Idea (1)

Luscious868 (679143) | more than 6 years ago | (#18901029)

I don't like the idea of the goverment provided telecom services. Too many privacy issues there. I like the idea of the "wall" that separates the private telecom industry from the goverment, specifically law enforcement. Enough abuses already exist with the wall in place, image what would happen if suddenly the goverment ran the show and didn't need to pass laws or go to court to get the information it was looking for, all in the name of "national security", of course.

Re:A Bad Idea (1)

radja (58949) | more than 6 years ago | (#18901183)

I'm all in favour of government provided services: there's been much abuse of private data by private parties. I agree with your points, but my conclusion is different: there are a lot more safeguards to control a government than there are to control what a private company does with the data it gathers.

what an amazing nation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18901139)

On the one hand Richard Gere has a warrant out for his arrest because he kissed a woman in public, on the other hand they are going to massively build out their broadband infrastructure. India seems like a place of amazing contradictions, something will have to give though. I just don't see how you can have this regressive traditionalist culture existing within a 21st century capitalist democracy.

Well, free as in cost, not liberty (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 6 years ago | (#18901237)

The Indian Government is notorious for quashing dissention on the internet. This may be a really radical conspiracy theory, but, by offering free internet access, the government gains control over its populace. Therefore, appearance differs from reality. By controlling internet access, the Indian Government gains certain amounts of control over content through filtering, port blocking, monitoring, etc. It is a great way to track would-be dissidents and others speaking out against the government.

Indian Subcontinent (3, Insightful)

oyenstikker (536040) | more than 6 years ago | (#18901255)

Pakistan is on the Indian Subcontinent. I am very surprised that India would offer free internet access to Pakistan.

Oh.

I am not very surprised that the story submitter made a statement that is not in the story, and the Slashdot "editors" did not edit it out.

1 billion people... massive area...poor people (1)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 6 years ago | (#18901319)

2009... lets see so India is a bigger country than the US, has less resources than the US and has more people than the US most of whom are much poorer than the US.

Of course a government can succeed where private enterprise failed. There will of course be no problem getting 2Mbps to 1 billion people, oh no, and of course the fact that most don't have a computer and that the level of literacy outside of the major cities isn't great won't be any sort of barrier.

Nice political statement, but I'd say there is more chance of the Indian government admitting that project Tiger has issues than rolling out broadband.

Steve

such cynicism (1)

Jewfro_Macabbi (1000217) | more than 6 years ago | (#18901321)

Interesting. It seems many posters projected problems of our government onto the Indian effort. Why does everyone assume it "can't be done"? I applaud their effort, their willingness to try... Americans seem sorely lacking in the willingness to try department anymore. We immediately argue why it could never, or should never, be accomplished. We immediately argue that a government should never actually provide to it's citizenry.

Our government has already paid the telco's here with our tax dollars, only we got nothing for it...
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