Much of the quandary that the Kejriwal government finds itself in is due to the changes that the internet landscape has seen in the last couple of years
The Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party’s much-delayed poll promise of offering free WiFi to the residents of the national capital may never see the day of light after all. Barely 10 days away from the September 30 deadline that the AAP government had announced for the award of tenders for the setting up of WiFi hotspots, the city government appears to be having second thoughts.
Much of the quandary that the Kejriwal government finds itself in is due to the changes that the internet landscape has seen in the last couple of years, reports The Indian Express. The government believes that with little relevance of wireless internet hotspots in an era of 4G, and is mulling over providing free Internet via data vouchers instead of the pre-decided free WiFi project in the national capital, the report said.
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The free WiFi project was one of the AAP’s biggest pre-poll promises in the last Assembly elections in 2015 but has faced prolonged delay. The decision was taken that the tender for the projects will be awarded by September 30 and the commissioning of the pilot hotspots by March 31, 2019, the IE report said.
With less than a year left for the Lok Sabha elections next year, the AAP government is still struggling to arrive at a consensus and take a final decision on the model on which it will provide free internet. On one hand, the government believes that the already delayed free WiFi project may now have become redundant, PWD Minister Satyendar Jain as well as the advisors of Chief Minister Kejriwal have objected to the data vouchers proposal citing a rise in cost.
A meeting between Jain and telecom companies will be held on Saturday with an aim to build consensus, the IE report says.
The AAP wants to implement the project ahead of the next year’s Lok Sabha elections with an aim to keep BJP and Congress at bay. “Much has changed in the last three years. Mobile Internet is widely and easily accessible. Hotspots made sense then, not anymore. There are fears of costs. But, hotspots will be high-maintenance. There will be breakdowns, thefts,” IE quoted sources as saying.
“Separate infrastructure will have to be built just to protect them. If the objective is to provide free Internet access, then other models should be looked at. And such a large order to any company will also ensure cheap prices. There are advantages and disadvantages. We will also have to see because installing hotspots is a time-consuming process and things may stall once the model of conduct comes into force before the polls. Bureaucrats may float many ideas, but it is the Chief Minister who will take the final call,” an official was quoted as saying by IE.