The Economic Times reported that the Indian Government is planning to make broadband freely available to all residents by the year 2009. I have a mixed reaction, a bit excited and a bit skeptical.
First of all, I do not think it will really be free, someone/something will have to pay for the money that the Government will be spending. Of course I believe that the cost for an individual will come down, especially for a 2Mbps line. I think it will be useful because of the rise in online activities like blogging, Internet banking, social networking and ecommerce. One big benefit can be a chance to work from home for some, which I think is a true solution for the heavy traffic in places in Mumbai.
However, the skepticism comes out of the realization that the majority still do not use the Internet. Not because an Internet connection is not available, but because electricity is not consistently available. In such a scenario the only possible way to justify necessity of the connection is if the Government itself offers a bouquet of services on the Web. Which is slowly happening, but too slow compared to how quick the broadband will be available.
I am sure there will be repurcussions in the market as well. This is going to kill any competition that is there. It will bring a monopoly into the market for something that is still not as common as the other necessities like roads and water. The Government is going to face a daunting task of scalability, BSNL and MTNL are not able to cope up with the current limited demand itself.
So, there are doubts and questions. But I still feel excited and glad that the Government is thinking on these lines. Ironically, Web can help the most in the rural areas, which still get isolated and the voices there get suppressed. However, the benefit is there to avail only for people who have education and who have the basic necessities. I think the Internet availability will help a lot, only if the Government takes all-round efforts and provide the entire solution, not piece by piece.