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AAP govt’s free WiFi project fails to take off in Delhi, unlikely to meet deadline

The AAP’s promise to provide free WiFi has been stuck between IT department and Development Commission. The AAP government now plans to revisit the list of areas shortlisted to set up hotspots.

delhi Updated: Sep 16, 2017 07:45 IST
Sweta Goswami
Sweta Goswami
Hindustan Times
Delhi news,AAP,WiFi
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal last week held a review meeting and asked officials to come up with a blueprint by next week.(PTI FILE)

More than two years after it came to power in Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP’s) promise of free WiFi is yet to take off. The pilot project was launched with much fanfare in 2016 but it could not move further due to apparent lack of coordination between Information Technology (IT) Department and the Dialogue and Development Commission (DDC) of Delhi, which was first given the project.

According to the Delhi government’s latest deadline, the first phase of the project is to be launched by March next year under, which 1,000 WiFi hotspots are to set up across the city.

But seeing the sluggish progress of the project, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal last week held a review meeting. Officials have been asked by Kejriwal to come up with a blueprint by next week.

Where will hotspots come up?

Even as the information technology department is yet to identify the 1,000 spots where free WiFi will be available, sources told Hindustan Times that the government was rethinking about the places it had previously finalized.

“Rather than providing it in parks and markets, the focus in the first phase would be to give free WiFi in utility areas. These include places with lot of visitors like SDM offices, in and around hospitals, bus terminals, motor licensing offices and so on,” an official said.

Nearly Rs 25 crore has been proposed to fund the first phase of the project and the tender will be out by December 2017.

Planning overdrive

Giving free WiFi was one of AAP’s key poll promise that helped it garner support among the youth. But the project slowed down due to a planning overdrive by the government.

After preparing the modalities for over a year, in March 2016, the DDC launched its first free WiFi project on a three-month pilot basis in north Delhi’s Sant Nagar market. Users were told they would be able to download 50 MB data every day free of cost.The service was provided by a local vendor.

After nearly one-and-a-half years, it went to the IT department.

A year later, residents near the market have no memory of what it was like to have ‘free WiFi.’ “We used our mobile internet only. My phone had caught the WiFi signal once or twice maybe in the initial days, but that too was mired by slow speed,” said Rohit Dev, a resident in the area.

In December 2015, the government had launched free ‘aam aadmi WiFi’ service in six of its DTC buses, again on pilot. But that too never took off from there.

“The problem is there is no study based on which the project can be built on. The Commission conducted the pilots but never shared any study with the IT department,” an official said.

First Published: Sep 15, 2017 14:00 IST