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|November 6, 1998
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is a man who keeps his word. That much you must grant him.
A week ago he declared in Bangalore that before November 7 all hurdles in the way of the Internet policy would be removed, making way for private companies to provide Internet access services.
And lo! The Internet policy is here. That too a day before the deadline. On November 6 itself. But don't ask us how it is any different from the set of terms and conditions announced some months ago.
Well, yes. It is now official.
Since Vajpayee's promise, many took heart that after a series of widely missed deadlines, spanning almost an year, the Internet policy would finally see the light of the day. This was the prime minister's bold promise. Things could not go wrong now.
News agency copies boldly noted that the day marks "the end of the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited's monopoly over the ISP business". Just like they had done so many times in the past one year over a series of false starts and hopes. But this time round, somehow, news editors are feeling more charitable.
Announcing the new Internet policy, Minister of State for Communications Kabindra Purkayastha once again explained its terms and conditions and invited Internet service providers to come forward to seek licences for providing Internet services.
He reminded us that any company registered under the 1956 Companies Act would be eligible to submit proposals. Foreign equity would be permitted to the extent of 49 per cent and that there would be no requirement of the applicant company to have any experience in information technology or telecommunication services.
The minister said separate licences would be granted to an applicant company for each service area. For this purpose, the country has been divided into separate service areas in three categories of A, B and C.
And yawn! The licence would be valid for 15 years unless otherwise withdrawn. There would be no licence fee for the first five years and for the subsequent years, a token fee of Re 1 per year would be charged. (My colleague claims he can pronounce this paragraph backwards).
Purkayastha disclosed that 47 applications from prospective Internet service providers have been received.
The ministry is in the process of finalising some of the applications and the licences might be issued late this evening itself.
In response to a question, the minister confirmed that the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited, the government owned basic telephony provider in New Delhi and Bombay, is one of the applicants.
He said that those wanting to set up their own Internet gateways would have to obtain a security clearance from the government.
For this purpose, an inter-ministerial committee has been set up with the Department of Telecommunications as the nodal agency for clearing applications.
How the Internet battle was wonA chronology in hypertext (last things first):
Between the cup and the lip
The October Revolution
Finally final: After an interminable wait the ISP policy is official. Or was it ;-)
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