The Rs251 phone might have been a non-starter, but now the Tamil Nadu government has launched a similarly 'too-good-to-be-true' plan in broadband access. Hopefully this won't turn out to be a disappointing mess like the Rs251 phone.
Tamil Nadu's state-owned cable TV and internet service provider Arasu Corporation has launched a fibre-based broadband service starting at Rs299 per month for a line with 2Mbps speed and a 2GB data limit. It will offer a range of plans, including a 40GB data pack at 4Mbps speed for Rs899. The Jayalalithaa government is calling it "internet for all" in the poll-bound state notorious for election-time freebies.
Cheif Minister Jayalalitha announced the internet service over a video conference. The charges for the router, modem and installation have to be borne by the customer. The bandwidth for the broadband will be provided by Vodafone. Last year, Arasu cable had acquired the ISP license from the telecom ministry.
A report from The New Indian Express suggests that Arasu Cable had been testing this service for 1,100 providers already. And with the current infrastructure, they would be able to provide the internet service to 15,000 more houses immediately. Arasu is targeting to reach the number of 50,000 customers in next three months. It is clear that the announcement has been made ahead of the elections, but the roll out and infrastructure scale-up to reach every part of the state will take time.
Arasu Cable has a wide footprint in the state due to the popularity of its cable TV services.
Jayalalitha also announced a startup warehouse in Chennai built at an expense of ₹3.53 crores. She also said a cloud and web hosting service for students and entrepreneurs will be built at a cost of ₹10.41 crores at the state-owned data centre. Phase 2 of the data centre will also be underway with the budget of ₹40 crores.
This is not the first digital initiative taken by the Tamil Nadu government. They have distributed 31.76 lakh laptops to the students at a cost of ₹6,456. CM had also announced Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) services for all households last year.
The Government of India is also trying to make internet accessible to everyone under the digital India initiative. They are working with Google to set up Internet balloons under 'Project Loon'. Recently Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also announced digital literacy schemes in the union budget. Notably, Facebook's ambitious project Free Basics was shut down after TRAI banned all the differentially priced tariff plans.