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|November 2, 1998||
Going by the prime minister's fiat, private Internet services should be launched within a week [hope against hope:-)] but their reach will be limited to metropolitan hubs.
The Powergrid Corporation of India and the Indian Railways are to provide network support to take Internet services to the hinterland.
However, these organisations have not yet come up with a pricing formula, Department of Telecommunications sources claim.
The finance ministry has asked the communications ministry for clarifications on sharing revenue between PGCIL or Indian Railways and the Internet service provider.
Though the issue does not involve finance ministry directly, the organisations offering support services are expected to furnish details to the ministry of finance, officials point out.
Senior DoT officials say the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is yet to revise telecom tariffs to be charged from ISPs.
The prime minister's information technology taskforce has sought steep reductions in the rates now charged by MTNL for providing Internet gateway services.
"The ISP policy is unlikely to be fully implemented. The government may grant licences to a few companies. However, small towns and rural areas are unlikely to get immediate benefits," a senior DoT official has said.
According to a gazette notification issued in July this year, the central government has set a target to allow DoT and authorised ISPs to provide access nodes at all district headquarters and local charging areas by 26 January 2000.
A number of small firms already offering illegal Internet services in the four metros and other cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad are likely to be the first to get the ISP licence.
Under the original licence agreement announced in January, the licences must be implemented within 18 months from the date of issue.
Former communications minister Sushma Swaraj had been keen on starting private ISPs at the earliest but it was delayed after the Prime Minister's Office directed DoT to include recommendations of the IT Task Force.
Swaraj had directed DoT to frame the final proposal by October. The IT Task Force has recommended a complete waiver of licence fee for ISPs in the first five years.
Further, the private ISPs will also be allowed to provide Internet gateway access after obtaining security clearance for which interface of private ISPs shall be with DoT. It will set up a mechanism for obtaining security clearance from different agencies.
However, the government may not be able to clear the recommendation for providing access to Internet through cable TV or any service provider without additional licensing subject to cable laws, sources said.
The revised policy has also incorporated strict guidelines to ban flow of obscene, objectionable, unauthorised or any other content infringing copyrights, intellectual property rights and international and domestic cyber laws, sources in DoT say.
- Compiled from the Indian media
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