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‘We have done a terrible job in broadband penetration’: TRAI chief

Rahul Khullar tells the India Digital Summit that India is nowhere near to meeting the target of National Optic Fibre Network

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Delhi | February 7, 2014


Delivering his keynote address at the India Digital Summit of the Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), Rahul Khullar, Chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRAI), was candid in his admission of a not so successful rollout of National Optic Fibre Network (NOFN). He said, “We have done a terrible job in broadband. We are nowhere near to meeting target of NOFN and unless it is done, internet penetration cannot happen at the desired pace.”

Referring to the fact that 80 per cent of new internet users are coming through 2G network, Khullar said, “Access and speed will determine penetration of smartphones and internet. Unless there is reasonable pricing of spectrum and making spectrum available, we will not succeed.” He added that the next government has to take immediate action on spectrum availability to have successful internet penetration in India.

Delivering the inaugural address, Rajan Anandan, Chairman, IAMAI & Managing Director, Google India, said, “India is adding 4 million active internet users every month. At this rate we will overtake the United States by end of this year to become the second largest internet market. In next decade, India’s e-Commerce industry will be around $100 billion. But to reach that stage, investments of upward of $3 billion is required. And that can only happen if FDI in e-Commerce is allowed.”

Taking a leaf out of Anandan’s speech, Khullar commented, “Given the dire strait of our finances, the e-Commerce industry should embrace itself for taxation.”

While policy matters comprised the first half of discussion, Baijayant Panda, Lok Sabha MP, was vocal on freedom of speech on the internet. He said, “Section 66A of the IT Act is draconian and is not in sync with Indian Penal Code. There is a clear distinction on thinking and acting. Neither Section 66A of the IT Act nor the antiquated Section 124 A of IPC recognises that. We need to have firm yet transparent laws governing the internet.”

Earlier during the day, Khullar had raised the issue of data protection, privacy and internet governance and said that industry members should come forward alongwith civil society in creation of internet governance laws. “India has no clear position on internet governance,” he said, pointing out that stakeholders should take the initiative before arbitrary laws are thrust upon them.

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