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July 31, 1999
Goa has all the ingredients to become the Internet hotspot in India. Sadly, the state has become yet another victim of bureaucratic indifference.
Consider these reasons for Goa's great Internet opportunity:
The DoT is the government owned basic telephony provider. Until recently it also maintained the Panaji server, Goa's link to the Internet via the VSNL.
The VSNL is the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited, the government owned overseas telecommunications monopoly and until recently, also the monopoly in the Internet access service business.
VSNL's Bom2 Internet server that DoT was maintaining for Goa has been a source of terrific irritation.
Because of the server's low uptime and very few dial-in lines, Goa's 2,000 Internet subscribers have been using online services sub-optimally.
Recently, the dial-in lines were almost doubled from 65 to 125. But this has only marginally improved the time it takes to get through on the phone line. Besides, getting through is not everything because there is no guarantee that the server will be up to validate subscribers.
To compound the problem, not all of DoT's telephone exchanges in Goa are fully compatible with each other. This leads to slower connect speeds for people living in certain regions.
The way out could come with competition for DoT, thus far the only ISP in the state.
The good news is that competition is inevitable and already happening. This month Satyam Infoway announced its ISP services in Goa by setting up its 15th node at Panaji.
Satyam Infoway Regional Manager Gerard Pushpanathan is exuberant: "We expect every Goan house to have a PC in the next five years."
That may be a little over-optimistic hope, but Satyam is targeting to sell at least 2,000 subscriptions within one year. Now it remains to be seen if existing DoT-VSNL subscribers will migrate to the untried newcomer.
After all, several complaints of VSNL's Internet subscribers are due to basic telecom infrastructure issues that only DoT can handle. Neither VSNL nor Satyam Infoway has the power to alter that.
Telecom officials agree that for government agencies to survive they would have to get competitive.
For the last month DoT has been promising to improve Internet connectivity for Goans by upgrading its systems. For the last three months it has been promising to deploy round-the-clock staff. But it is another matter that the existing staffers are the least responsive.
Despite poor competition, Satyam is not just about to take over. A DoT official pointed out to Rediff that "They (Satyam) have presence only in four major towns and cannot have a statewide network like ours."
Yet, DoT cannot afford to be complacent. Here is a case in point. Jason Noronha, a software developer from a coastal village of Assolna complains "Getting connected to the server from my village is a miracle." The southern Goa village boasts a Net population of seven!
In the meantime, Satyam is busy pushing its services by distributing application forms on CDs and free software like anti-virus application and multimedia Internet training programmes.
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