India's 18,000 colleges will soon have internet café for its students. The Department of Telecommunications and Human Resource Development ministry have joined hands to provide broadband access to lakhs of undergraduate students in the country.
Under the scheme, the HRD ministry will provide funds to the Department of Telecommunications, which in turn, through service providers will provide internet connection in the colleges. "We expect the department to sign a service level agreement with the internet connection providers," a senior HRD ministry official said.
The connection would be minimum of 256 kbps download speed. But, the exact dimensions will depend on what service providers make available to colleges, the official said. The DoT and HRD ministry have already identified three to four players, who are ready to provide the service. "Names cannot be revealed till the negotiations are over," the official said.
Connecting 18,000 colleges will not be a huge burden on exchequer. HRD ministry officials expect an annual expenditure of Rs 40 crore and said the expenses will fall once internet connectivity increases in the country. India's internet access rate is just two per cent of the population.
For colleges in remote areas, where terrestrial service may not be available, the ministry has suggested the satellite route. The service would be made available through the government's Education Satellite (EDU SAT), the ministry has proposed.
"The user cost of internet service through satellite is cheaper than the terrestrial route but than EDU SAT has 12 transponders with limited space for broadcast. Therefore, it can be put for use only in limited areas," the official explained.
But, the ministry has decided that the government will not pay for the cyber infrastructure in the colleges. "They will have to generate their own resources for setting up cyber labs," an official said. The logic is that if the colleges don't invest even a small amount they may not take care of the new service. "There should be some sort of ownership," he said.
The ministry has submitted a comprehensive plan under Integrated Communication Technology Mission to the Planning Commission for final approval. "They (Planning Commission) has appreciated the proposal and we expect an approval soon," ministry officials said.