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TRAI has taken up the task of exploring the possibility of proliferating broadband in the country through public WiFi networks. One of the roadblocks in the plan as highlighted by the service providers is the lack of clarity in right of way principles. Framed under Indian Telegraph Act, right of way norms would enable the internet service providers to acquire land for the local bodies and state government for setting their networks including underground cables/fibres and towers. The Department of Telecom in its strategic plan for 2011-15, had also identified the need of a uniform policy and consistent guidelines on right of way norms as one of the key factors for growth of telecom sector in the country.

A functional WiFi hotspot requires adequate mechanism for backhaul of data connectivity from the location of hotspot. Various clearances are required from entities like Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs), pollution control authorities, safety certificate, fire authorities which results in delay in implementation. The costs are prohibitively high for extending the internet bandwidth to Tier-I, Tier-II, Tier-III cities and towns. Then there are annual rental charges for laying down telecom infrastructure under the roads. The government also demands free bandwidth from the telecom operators. The rollout of last mile connectivity provided through optic fibre network is expensive and time consuming because of delays in approvals and permissions due to right of way.

As BharatNet has not picked up the expected speed in laying optical fibre network to all gram panchayats in the country, a conducive right of way policy can enable private operators to set up their own infrastructure and bring web access to rural hinterlands of the country.

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