Net subs grow significantly but public Wi-Fi idea flayed

MUMBAI: Even as internet subscribers are growing significantly across Indian states, TRAI's idea of public Wi-Fi has been flayed by stakeholders.

Maharashtra has recorded the highest number of internet subscribers in India at 29.47 million, followed by Tamil Nadu, Andhra and Karnataka in that order, according to government data. At the end of March 2016, India had a total of 342.65 million subscribers. BharatNet project meantime plans to connect all 2.5 lakh gram panchayats in the country through broadband.

Delhi had registered 20.59 million internet users, while Kolkata and Mumbai recorded 9.26 million and 15.65 million, respectively.

Tamil Nadu recorded 28.01 million subscribers, while the neighbouring states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka respectively registered 24.87 million and 22.63 million. Himachal Pradesh saw the lowest number of subscribers at 3.02 million.

Of the over 342 million subscribers, over 67 per cent are from urban India. At the end of FY16, the rural internet subscriber base stood at 111.94 million. Tamil Nadu recorder the highest number of urban subscribers at 21.16 million, while UP (East) telecom circle is ahead in terms of rural internet customer base at 11.21 million.

Public Wi-Fi condemned

Telecom stakeholders recommending an open and cheap internet have raised concerns over privacy and regulatory hurdles following the release of TRAI's consultation paper on public Wi-Fi.

The Internet Freedom Foundation co-founder Aravind Ravi Sulekha was apprehensive that the proposed regulations could lead to invasion of privacy and interfere with the freedom of hotspot providers to operate freely. The proposals may turn out to be regressive, Sulekha said.

TRAI proposed hotspot providers would have to register with the government and users could access hotspots only after paying using a service tied to their Aadhaar number.

Centre for Internet and Society policy director Pranesh Prakash said that TRAI solution was a classic example of over-regulation and centralism. It turns out that TARI was unclear about the problem to be solved, he added.

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