The union cabinet on Wednesday paved the way for free wireless internet in public spaces - under a scheme labelled the Prime Minister's Wi-Fi Access Network Initiative (PM-WANI) - that it said would jumpstart a "massive Wi-Fi revolution" across the country.
"The cabinet has taken a decision to launch PM Wi-Fi Access Network Interface to unleash a massive Wi-Fi network in our country. Public data centres will be opened across the country. There will be no licence fee or registration (for providing internet access)," Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Union Minister for Information Technology, told reporters.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the "historic scheme" would "revolutionise the tech world".
"Historic PM-WANI (Wi-Fi Access Network Interface) scheme that has been cleared by the Cabinet today will revolutionise the tech world and significantly improve Wi-Fi availability across the length and breath of India. It will further 'Ease of Doing Business' and 'Ease of Living'," the Prime Minister tweeted.
Historic PM-WANI (Wi-Fi Access Network Interface) scheme that has been cleared by the Cabinet today will revolutionise the tech world and significantly improve WiFi availability across the length and breath of India. It will further ‘Ease of Doing Business' and ‘Ease of Living.'— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 9, 2020
The Prime Minister said the scheme would "boost incomes" and strengthen the "Digital India mission".
"The scheme would enable our small shopkeepers to provide Wi-Fi service. This will boost incomes as well as ensure our youth gets seamless internet connectivity. It will also strengthen our Digital India mission," PM Modi tweeted.
Public Wi-Fi networks will be set up by Public Data Office Aggregators (PDOA) through Public Data Offices (PDO) across the country. Third parties can develop an app that can be downloaded by users, who must register themselves and can then be connected to the nearest Wi-Fi network.
Although there will be no licence fees, PDOAs and app providers need to be registered with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). This will happen within seven days of application.
Mr Prasad said the proposal - presented by the DoT - would promote the growth of public Wi-Fi networks and, in turn, provide employment opportunities and enhance income generation
"(The use of) public Wi-Fi hotspots will massively encourage its proliferation and penetration across the length and breadth of the country. Availability and use of broadband will enhance income, employment, quality of life and ease of doing business," he declared.
At today's meeting the cabinet also approved the provision of submarine optical fibre cable connectivity between the mainland (from Kerala's Kochi) and the Lakshadweep islands.
With input from ANI