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Indian Govt Looking To Setup WiFi Hotspots In Village Panchayats; Cybercafe Rules?

The Indian government is looking to setup WiFi hotspots across 2.5 lakh village panchayats, as part of its ongoing national optical fibre network project, reports PTI (via Zee News).

A senior government official told the publication that a proposal is in the works by Department of Telecom (DoT) and it will be submitted to the Telecom Commission for approval and the union cabinet for the final nod. He added that this proposal will result in an additional expenditure of about Rs 5,000 crore, thereby increasing the total project spend to Rs 25,000 crore, although he didn’t disclose any specific information as to when DoT intends to submit this proposal for approval.

Telecom Commission had approved Rs 20,000 crore for creating National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN) which intends to provide broadband services across the villages in India. Milind Deora, the Minister of State for Communication and Information Technology, had said a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) named Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) had been incorporated in February 2012 to execute the project and BBNL had signed a tripartite MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the Indian government and the state government of all 26 states earlier this year. The project is expected to be completed by 2014-15.

Cybercafe Rules? If this project is approved and executed correctly, it could significantly improve the existing poor public WiFi scenario in the country. However, the execution can turn out to be quite tricky since according to India’s IT rules, WiFi hotspots are same as cyber cafes and therefore cyber cafe guidelines would be applicable here.

This essentially means that common service centres would’ve to maintain a log of all the users and websites accessed, which can turn out to be quite cumbersome and a privacy nightmare if the data is somehow misused. We are also curious to see how the government plans to address the identification issue at these WiFi hotspots. Will users have to provide identification documents to receive access to these WiFi hotspots?

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