The Karnataka government announced that it will install WiFi hotspots across 2,500 gram panchayats, with an overall investment of Rs 50 crore, set aside from the state’s 2017-18 budget, according to this ET report. The entire WiFi project is being run and maintained by Keonics, a Karnataka government agency responsible for promoting the electronics industries in Karnataka.
Karnataka’s IT Minister Priyank Kharge confirmed the development with MediaNama and added that the WiFi project was initially launched in October last year as a pilot project in 11 gram panchayats. These include villages in the districts of Mysore, Tumakuru, Gadag, Ballari, Kalaburgi and Bagalkot. “Initially we kept it free, just to check how people are using it…and post this test phase, we started providing vouchers and charging users from as low as Rs 15 per hour,” Kharge said. He added that the government procures bandwidth from state-owned telcos BSNL for the WiFi project and that currently, it is in the process of deploying infrastructure required for WiFi.
Kharge also said that the future strategy of the WiFi project will be decided after analysing usage patterns from the 3-month pilot test. The government plans to provide broadband connectivity to all gram panchayats by end of May 2017, according to Kharge. “We have also signed up with BSNL to give last mile connectivity to any entrepreneur or to any NGO or any educational institutions, whenever they require it,” Kharge added. He also clarified that the WiFi project is a fully government funded project as of now, although the government is open to private partnerships as well in the future.
Karnataka govt’s earlier tie up with D-VoiS for WiFi
Note that back in 2014, the Government of Karnataka had tied up with D-VoiS, a private ISP, to launch free WiFi across Bangalore city locations like MG Road Yeshwanthpur, Koramangala etc. At the time, the Government said that it would extend this service to more cities including Mysore, Mangalore, Hubli-Dharwad and some other towns in north Karnataka. However, when I last checked, the D-VoiS sponsored WiFi network was down in MG Road premises, or at times doesn’t even show up in the WiFi list.
Other state-sponsored WiFi projects
Several state-sponsored public WiFi initiatives were announced in the past couple of months including Maharashtra government’s plan to install 1200 WiFi hotspots across Mumbai city by May 2017. Tamil Nadu government also has a plan for free WiFi facilities in public spaces and Internet in schools, while Delhi Government’s plans to install 1000 hotspots in 571 locations. State-owned telco BSNL also has plans to install 10,000 hotspots at government-owned schools in Kerala.