City to Panchayat Level Reforms
India is a country of villages. The heterogeneity in the nature of her existence comes from the powerful profile of villages the country has. So, for anything to become mainstream in the country has to be deep rooted and engulf the network of widespread villages across the country.
Realizing this fact, the government has from time to time already been proactive on enabling Broadband for villages. Be it Fiber to the Panchayat or National Fibre Optic Network, the focus has always been how to penetrate deep and wide through the country to bring villages on to the network. However, cities and villages differ in composition and every other aspect and there is a need that these are dealt differently. There is a need for different set of reforms at city as well as Panchayat levels.
Panchayats are the localized centres of governance and they could be pivotal towards increasing Broadband penetration concentric to their areas of jurisdictions. Hence, a special category of ISPs/NGOs be created where micro ISPs like Panchayats can become feasible technically as well as commercially where they can offer Broadband as a Service in partnership with private entities. A cooperative model can also be explored for this purpose where the local Panchayat, NGOs, Government and a Private enabler can come together.
To encourage localized micro ISPs, tax holidays should be worked out to offset any market disabilities and increase services affordability.
Railways and Posts are two such organizations that have the most extensive network in the country touching almost every region and village in the country. It is recommended that Railway stations and Post Offices be converted into Wi-Fi hotspots to create a wide mesh of Wi-Fi network across the country.
It is suggested that the PCO model be applied in case of promoting Wi-Fi at local levels. There should be provisioning of Wi-Fi booths where individual users can access Internet against a nominal fee thereby making it ‘Internet on Demand’ for such a user base.
The government and the operators must work together to create the broadband infrastructure. And this should be like a utility for the operators
We should liberate village level ISPs, so that local entrepreneurs at the village level, using wi-fi can offer some level of connectivity
Post offices are playing a very critical role in financial inclusion and e-commerce related courier services. And today, bandwidth for us is more important than water and electricity