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|July 11, 1997||
Internet policy thrills NASSCOMIndian Internet subscribers will grow to 1.5 million in three years from the present 80,000 as a result of the government's decision to open up Internet access, Dewang Mehta, executive director, National Association of Software and Service Companies has said.
"The number of Internet users will increase several folds to 1.5 million by 2000, with free competition in access provision," he said. He added that with competition, the costs would fall dramatically, and the Internet would spread rapidly in India. "It will no longer remain the preserve of the elite," he said.
The government took a decision to open up the market to Internet access providers last week, waived the licence fee for two years, and removed restrictions on the number of access providers. The only condition that access providers have to adhere to is to use the international gateways of state-run international communications provider, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited to connect to the Internet.
Mehta said that Internet access rates in India were set to tumble. With free competition, the average monthly rate would be about Rs 500 for unrestricted access, he said. At present, Internet access is the monopoly of the government, and the cost of a commercial connection is Rs 31 per hour.
The only commercial provider is VSNL, which has about 40,000 subscribers after two years of running the service.
The Department of Electronics runs a service for educational institutions and non-profit organisations called Education and Research Network, which has 40,000 subscribers.
Mehta said the average investment in infrastructure for an Internet access provider to connect 100 users would be in the region of Rs 1 million. He said if the government had not opened up this sector, the country would have lost out on the Internet boom, which in the long term would have affected India's software development efforts.
- Compiled from the Indian media
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