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Delhi govt puts free WiFi plan on fast track, to create hotspots in city

Free WiFi in the national capital was a key poll promise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) during the 2015 Assembly elections. AAP functionaries said the government is now putting all its flagship projects on fast track in light of Lok Sabha elections due in about eight months and Assembly polls in 18 months.

delhi Updated: Aug 21, 2018 03:58 IST
Ashish Mishra and Sweta Goswami
Ashish Mishra and Sweta Goswami
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Delhi govt,free WiFi,hotspots
PWD minister Satyendar Jain has directed the department to bring a cabinet note on the (HT/File Photo)

Public Works Department (PWD) minister Satyendar Jain has asked for creation of free WiFi ‘hotspots’ across the city instead of offering free internet vouchers to people, as was proposed by the department, Delhi government officials said on Monday.

Jain has also directed the department to expedite the project and bring a cabinet note on the matter by next week, officials said.

Free WiFi in the national capital was a key poll promise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) during the 2015 Assembly elections. AAP functionaries said on condition of anonymity that the government is now putting all its flagship projects on fast track in light of Lok Sabha elections due in about eight months and Assembly polls in 18 months.

“The free WiFi promise of the AAP has been pending for long now due to red-tapism, as it was initially transferred from one department to another. Implementing the project now is important as it will help the party gather support, especially from the youth and the working class,” an AAP member said.

According to senior officials of the PWD, which is anchoring the project, the government favours a hotspot model as it would be cheaper than the other proposals.

Requesting anonymity, a senior official said that an advisor to the chief minister, who handles policy related matters, was of the view that setting up hotspot zones across the city would cost around ₹200 crore cheaper than the other models.

The department had considered three possible models for the project. These were – creating high speed hotspot zones across the city, giving free WiFi vouchers with a data limit, or through optical fiber cables connected to all households.

“We were considering three possible models for the facility but the minister (Jain) wants the hotspot model to be adopted because it is more reliable,” the official said.

Tenders are scheduled to be awarded next month as a deadline of March 31, 2019, has been set for the completion of the project.

Deputy CM Manish Sisodia had, on March 22, set aside a fund of Rs 100 crore for the free WiFi scheme and had handed over the project to the PWD from Information and Technology (IT) Department to expedite the work.

Initially, the PWD had said that it would not be able to execute the project because of “lack of expertise” and “scarcity of staff”.

Later, the department agreed to implement the plan. The AAP government had initially assigned the project to the Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi (DDCD).

In March, 2016, it started the first free WiFi facility on a pilot basis for three months at Sant Nagar market in Burari area of north Delhi, where users were told that they would be able to download 50 MB of data per day free of cost.

If successful, the DDCD had promised to convert 571 other locations in the city into high-speed WiFi zones.

The project, however, received lukewarm response as there were complaints of poor network.

First Published: Aug 21, 2018 03:58 IST