The most common ‘grouse’ you hear from VCs or internet entrepreneurs is – when will the govt push for internet penetration?
The Govt of India did the correct thing by having a portfolio for IT and Telecom. While I think IT and Telecom are completely different and they ought to have separate ministries it is better than not having anything at all. But then I seem to be recommending to increase the size of the already bloated cabinet size! Me bad!
Today I was with a private Telco which has done a great job in providing broadband in India. Few things I learnt from him,
- WiMAX has not succeeded on a large scale anywhere in the world. India needs to wait for a long time to see WiMAX in a serious way
- Telcos prefer to go after corporate accounts instead of home broadband connectivity (since ROI is less from home users)
- To lay 1 km of cable (last mile) telcos spend Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 lakh on the material, Rs 90 lakh for various govt agencies). What is the telco’s incentive to increase broadband connectivity to homes?
- South Korean govt has laid cables all over the country and leases out the last mile connection to any ISP that is interested. In India, BSNL will never agree to lease out their last mile connectivity.
There is too much red tape from State governments when it comes to providing last time connectivity (they don’t give you permission to dig roads very easily).
For the next 5 years, the govt should have a ‘Minister For Internet’ or at least a ‘Minister of State – Internet’.
How can a Minister of Internet help?
Since this ministry’s job will be only to increase the connectivity in India, I am sure the connections will increase dramatically. By having a lot more internet users,
- Existing internet companies will do better because revenue will increase, more taxes for the govt and possibly more jobs will be created
- Many Indians desire to be successful entrepreneurs. Once they see this surging internet user base a lot more will start their own internet ventures. This is good for the country.
- With revenues increasing entrepreneurs will come up with new ideas. VCs will start believing a lot more about the internet space in India. We will see more investments happening. Good for the entire eco-system.
- A huge ‘new’ user base from Tier-II cities will have access to content over the net. Students can be a lot smarter by having access to latest information. Why should Tier-II students be denied access to better content that could help them in their careers?
We need someone to head this effort who actually appreciates the internet space. We don’t need a minister who will insist on having his or her statue being installed on each junction box! That would be a nightmare.
We don’t want the govt to help us with the internet business directly. Help us by just increasing the penetration, the rest, please leave it to the internet companies, they will figure it out.
If the govt does appoint one, we dotcom geeks can finally say “Yes Minister!”