�"Affordable Broadband”?

By Team Digit Published Date
01 - Jun - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Jun - 2006
“Affordable Broadband”?
With availability of tech jobs rising, airfares dropping and salaries being hiked, life for the urban Indian never seemed better. We've all gotten used to the pollution, pothole-riddled roads and endless traffic jams (especially in my home city of Mumbai), and we've learnt to take it in our stride. Slowly but surely, our civic amenities are improving, and people are now demanding more from the government authorities and private companies that control public amenities. Various tabloids and newspapers across the country take up fights for citizens' rights to better lives, making the bigwigs of the aforementioned government and private sector companies tremble in their boots. Yes, life as an urban Indian is getting better by the day-or is it?

Though I'm all for the betterment of public transport, safety, and the construction of flyovers and highways, I'd much rather see a reduction of potholes and speed-bumps in the most important highway of all-the information superhighway! I'm talking about something basic here, access to the Internet. If you think about it, you'll realise that the Internet is to geeks what the universe is to astronauts! Alas, much like the Indian astronauts, we resident Indian geeks cannot do much exploring because of the lack of a proper space programme!

A Pain In The A**
You know what those two *s spell out, and frankly, when I hear about "increasing Internet penetration in India," that's the part of my anatomy that begins to hurt, because I know we're all getting painfully screwed by our ISPs. This is 2006, and yet the majority of India is browsing the Internet at blazing speeds of between 16 and 48 kbps!

A few years ago, the government was kind enough to force ISPs to stop using the term "broadband" so freely: it stated that "broadband is an always-on Internet connection of at least 256 kbps speeds." So, although we don't have 64 kbps connections being called broadband, we now have every ISP conveniently overlooking the words "at least" in the government directive, and offering "broadband" connections that have "speeds of up to 256 kbps" for always-on, unlimited usage connections!

Limited MBs
Here's where all the bandwidth lies! Of my two connections, it's the limited MB connection that I use the most. Why? Because I have actually got download speeds of 64 kBps i.e 512 kbsps (8 bits = 1 Byte) on it, while my "unlimited connection" never gives me anything above 32 kBps i.e 256 kbps-actually, it's more like an average of 25 kBps! And that's me-others in Mumbai report even lower.

Though this would still sound like a dream to many across smaller cities in India, my friends abroad naturally laugh at my plight-the average American can get a 2 Mbps connection for anywhere between Rs 1,000 and 2,000 a month, while people in Scandinavian countries have national bandwidth averages of hundreds of Mbps to 1 Gbps per person! Here, I'm paying over Rs 4,000 for two connections on which I barely download a few GB per month!

And I'm considered one of the "lucky few"?

The majority of non-dial-up connected Indians pay between Rs 300 to Rs 3,000 for either limited MB connections or unlimited connections that offer speeds below 256 Kbps. Yet, all of those same people think they have "broadband"!

ISPs claim to have brought down prices, but the fact is that they were overcharging us before, and are still doing so now. They claim that the infrastructure costs demand such high prices, and also that they "buy" bandwidth at high prices. The simple truth is that all of us millions of bandwidth con-sumers have just sat back and accepted our fates. Either that, or we've been too busy fighting for better roads and services to care about Internet access. It's time we changed that!

The Bandwidth Revolution
Let's start one! Even if it's as simple a task as calling up your ISP hotline and asking for the price of a 512 kbps, unlimited, always-on connection, and then gasping at the price and hanging up. You could even suggest that they offer you a 512 kbps unlimited connection at a lower price and make up the loss in revenue in terms of advertising-I know I'd gladly watch a few ads on the top (bottom, left, right, or anywhere!) of my screen, and even click on a few of them, just to have a 512 kbps, unlimited Net pipe!

Perhaps someday you actually might be able to watch or listen to streaming video or audio, instead of going to a site with such content and having to select your connection speed as "dial-up" rather than "broadband"!

If we all do our bits, perhaps Indian ISPs will wake up to the fact that they will lose out their customers to the first ISP that actually offers affordable broadband. All that's required is one national ISP to make a policy change, and I know I'll switch immediately

However, as of now, with all the "limited MB plans" available out there, I have no option but to hand "broadband" and the ISPs that fail to provide it the dubious title of "technology that failed
to deliver!"

Team DigitTeam Digit

All of us are better than one of us.