In a week where Facebook tried to persuade TRAI about its 'Free Basics' initiative in the ongoing 'Differential pricing' debate, Google India made an announcement about its proposed plan to provide free Wi-Fi across Indian railway stations. In a blog post, Google states:
Trains are the lifeblood of India, and train stations sit at the heart of most cities across the country. More than 23 million people, get on a train in India every day. Inevitably, many of them end up spending a lot of time in train stations. Starting today, those passing through Mumbai Central station will have access to something that we hope will make their wait a bit more enjoyable and productive — free, high-speed Wi-Fi.
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To make this possible, Google has partnered with Indian Railways and RailTel, which provides Internet services via its extensive fiber network along many of these railway lines. Google states that the Wi-Fi will be entirely free to start, and users will be able to access anything they wish- stream movies, access emails or even download a game. Google's long-term goal is to make this self-sustainable and allow for expansion to more stations and places, with RailTel and other partners. By the end of 2016, Google aims to provide Wi-Fi access across 100 Indian railway stations. The railway stations next on the list are Allahabad, Jaipur, Patna and Ranchi.
Regarding how the network would be managed and misuse would be prevented, Google states:
To make sure that a few people spending all day in the station downloading lots of big files don’t slow down the network for everyone, users might notice a drop in speed after their first hour on the network. Most people should still be able to do the things they’ll want to do online.
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, had announced this project in September 2015 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Google's US headquaters, in line with his Digital India initiative. In the coming years Google aims to provide Wi-Fi access to 400 train stations across India.
Travellers at Mumbai Central can access Wi-Fi by following these steps:
Users can follow these steps to gain internet access on their phones and up to two additional devices.
The thing we’re most excited about with this service is the speed. Most people in India do not have high-speed connectivity. Sadly, connections here are among the slowest in Asia. According to some sources, only around 2 to 4 million households, in a country of 1.3 billion people, have a connection fast enough to stream an HD movie.
Google believes that the millions of Indians who will experience the full-speed, open Internet for the first time, will help to push for better connectivity in other places as well. To mark the occasion, Google India tweeted: