Wait for a few more days for free WiFi in Delhi

Free WiFi Zone
Free WiFi Zone

New Delhi, Dec 18 (IANS) Earlier this month, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had announced that he will inaugurate the first 100 hotspots on December 16 for providing free WiFi to the city. However, again the timeline has been pushed as the government now expects to start the scheme by the weekend.

The scheme is crucial for the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as it was a poll promise, which has already missed several deadlines.

“The Chief Minister was to inaugurate the scheme on December 16, but it is a little delayed. We are expecting to roll out the scheme before the weekend,” a government official told IANS.

With the tenure of the Arvind Kejriwal government about to end, the AAP government had on December 4 announced that it will fulfil its poll promise of giving free WiFi hotspots in the city.

While the people waited for the free Internet through hotspots, the government, since it came to power in February 2015, had been saying that the work on the project is underway.

Now, with just weeks left for the tenure of the Kejriwal government to end, it announced that the city will get about 11,000 hotspots — of which 4,000 hotspots will be installed at bus shelters and 7,000 in various areas — in the next six months.

Announcing the scheme, Kejriwal said: “On December 16, we will inaugurate officially the first 100 hotspots. Later, 500 hotspots will be installed every week. We will install all the 11,000 hotspots in six months.”

The project is costing the government Rs 100 crore. The users will get 15 GB limit per month.

One of the AAP’s flagship projects, the WiFi installation had missed a number of deadlines set by the government.

In its 2015 manifesto, the AAP had promised to make WiFi freely available in public spaces across Delhi.

The party, which was also in power for 49 days in 2013-14, said in the 2015 manifesto that the Internet and telecom companies have been approached and a high-level feasibility study has been done in consultation with them. The AAP came back to power with a landslide victory in February 2015.

While presenting the Budget for 2015-16, Delhi Finance Minister Manish Sisodia had termed WiFi as a major initiative in making Delhi a technologically advanced city.

There was no mention of the WiFi project in the Budgets for 2017-18 and 2018-19, however, in the Outcome Budget for 2017-18, the government said the Information Technology Department is in the process of issuing the request for proposals (RFP) for a feasibility study and had set March 2018 as the expected date for the commissioning of the WiFi hotspots at the pilot stage. However, the deadline was missed.

Again in the Outcome Budget 2018-19, while the government said the expected date for issue of the RFP was June 2018, it said March 2019 was the target for the launch of the pilot project. It was also mentioned that the work was entrusted to the PWD by the IT Department.

The Outcome Budget 2018-19 said that in March 2018, the PWD intimated that “PWD shall not be able to execute this work due to non-availability of sufficient staff and no expertise in this field”.

In the current Budget for 2019-20, Sisodia said after studying various models, “We are prepared to start this service for the residents of Delhi next year” and kept aside Rs 150 crore for the WiFi project.

With Kejriwal making the announcement on December 4 about the project, the opposition Congress and the BJP blamed the government for sleeping during its entire tenure and only starting the project as its term comes to an end to fool the people.

Kejriwal, however, denied that they resurrected the project as the elections were approaching.

“We started working on it soon after coming to power in 2015. We even started the project on a pilot basis. We have ensured that the cost of the project is not too much. The earlier models were not so feasible.”

The government had started the pilot of the project in March 2016 for three months at Sant Nagar market in Burari. The users were allowed to download 50 MB of data per day free of cost.

However, in 2016 and 2017, the AAP government tried different technical, financial and organisational models.

“This was done with the intention to structure the best quality Wi-Fi to consumers and at the least cost to the exchequer,” Kejriwal said.

The tenure of the AAP government ends in February, 2020.

(Nivedita Singh can be contacted at [email protected])

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