Bengaluru: Bengaluru, India’s information technology capital, will get free WiFi services for one hour each day, Deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka CN Ashwath Narayan said on Wednesday.

The proposed scheme, which will take nine months to be implemented, follows similar efforts by Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh governments which have tried to offer data as a commodity to their people.

“There has been a consistent demand from the public, tourists and many other stakeholders to have such an infrastructure, and we are finally delivering," Narayan, also state’s minister for higher & medical education, IT & BT, Science & Technology said on the sidelines of the ongoing Bengaluru Tech Summit.

The Karnataka government is also considering providing vehicle registration on priority for electric vehicles after 2020, Gaurav Gupta, Principal Secretary, Commerce and Industries, Government of Karnataka said at the Summit.

He said that it is part of the government’s efforts to encourage citizens to switch from petrol and diesel driven vehicles to electric vehicles. He added that they are also increasing the charging infrastructure as well as reserved parking. Gupta also said that to encourage environmental-friendly public transportation and encourage the shift to electric vehicles, the state government will be introducing electric buses in the city and the state.

The proposed scheme, estimated to cost 100 crore, will be fully funded by private internet service provider Atria Convergence Technologies Ltd (ACT) as part of its social responsibility and not as a commercial venture, Bala Malladi, chief executive of ACT, said.

The company will set up around 4000 hotspots across the city and one-hour free internet connectivity per day of 1 GB can be availed after verification using OTP (one time password), according to the proposal.

“The connection will be on a seamless, fully secure, network. This project has been initiated in cities like Hydrebad and Chennai as well," Malladi said, adding that a considerable investment has been made for its maintenance as well.

Though such schemes have begun with fanfare and have grabbed headlines with grand announcements, most of these often remain non-starters.

Bengaluru too has tried to activate free WiFi in certain pockets of the city but the project has seldom met with success. With over 10 million residents, the city has seen internet service providers struggling to get new customers. In the process, some service providers flout norms by passing optical fibre cables via trees, transformers and even sewerage pipes leading to clogging of drains.

Malladi said there was no such process involved in laying of cables as the existing connectivity channels of ACT will be used.

Bengaluru’s civic agencies like the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike and Urban Development Department will work with ACT in implementing the project.

India is one of the biggest markets for smartphones and data consumption as telecom companies, triggered by bloody price wars, offer cheap data tariffs to grab a bigger share of one of the biggest markets.

India also has the world’s highest data usage per smartphone at an average of 9.8GB per month, a new report by Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson said. This number is set to double to 18GB by 2024, fuelled by rich video content.

Only a few countries such as Finland, Estonia, France, Spain, Greece, and Costa Rica have declared internet as a basic human right.

Sharan Poovanna contributed to the story.

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