LOON PRO­JECT FAC­ING ABRUPT END: HARIN

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - FRONT PAGE - BY YO­HAN PER­ERA AND SANATH DES­MOND

The pro­posed loon pro­ject is fac­ing an abrupt end as Google had started look­ing for other op­tions, Tech­nol­ogy De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Harin Fer­nando said yes­ter­day.

Min­is­ter Fer­nando told a me­dia brief­ing that Google was look­ing to­wards launch­ing the loon pro­ject in an­other coun­try as a re­sult of the de­lay on the part of In­ter­na­tional Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion Union (ITU) and as a re­sult of neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity given by those who do not want the pro­ject to go through.

“Un­for­tu­nately Sri Lanka might lose an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity and I have al­ready in­formed about this sit­u­a­tion to both Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena and Prime Min­is­ter Ranil Wick­remesinghe,” the Min­is­ter said. “Google might go for an­other coun­try as they might think Sri Lankan peo­ple are not ready for such a pro­ject be­cause of neg­a­tive re­ports that were pub­lished on it,” he added.

He said Sri Lanka had lost an op­por­tu­nity as 10 per cent pen­e­tra­tion of in­ter­net would have re­sulted in 1.21 per­cent GDP growth. The Min­is­ter said the main rea­son for the de­lay in start­ing the pro­ject was the fail­ure on the part of ITU to give its ap­proval for the 700 mh spec­trum. He said the mat­ter was re­ferred to At­tor­ney Gen­eral to look at what could be done legally.

Fur­ther, he said some sec­tions in the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion sec­tor was also not too happy about the pro­ject and never wanted it off the ground. “We only did a pilot pro­ject to see whether the loon tech­nol­ogy would be suc­cess­ful in Sri Lanka for which we got a spec­trum for it. Ac­cord­ingly a com­mer­cial agree­ment was never signed with Google, or Rama Cor­po­ra­tion which is the lo­cal agent of Google and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Agency. An agree­ment was signed only for test­ing,” the Min­is­ter said.

The Min­is­ter de­nied the al­le­ga­tion that the pro­ject was started with­out proper ap­proval and high­lighted that no ap­proval was needed for a pilot pro­ject. “Do we need to get the ITU ap­proval just to ne­go­ti­ate with Google or with any of its agents?,” he ques­tioned.

“Loon pro­ject was not one like the Volk­swagon pro­ject as the TRC and I had a di­a­logue with Google Part­ners Larry Page and Sergey Brin,” he added.

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