The growing demand for Internet connection in Bangalore and the drive taken up by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) against unauthorised optic fibre cables (OFCs) have become “huge concerns” for the private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and their broadband customers.
Accepted as one of the most wired cities in the country, with industry sources estimating the number of Internet connections to be around 9 lakh, Bangalore had witnessed a swift expansion of broadband connectivity over the last few years. While most private ISPs with whom The Hindu spoke to said they had laid their OFCs only after obtaining the required permission from the civic authorities, BBMP’s Yediyur councillor N.R. Ramesh, who led Tuesday’s inspection, said the 18 private players in the business had laid more than 60,000 km of OFCs without permission, against the 6,100 km that had been laid legally. An unauthorised OFC that had already been laid was also disconnected in Yediyur on Tuesday, he said.
Though most of the ISPs said their cables had not been affected, they shared their customers’ apprehension over the development. A representative of Airtel, a leading ISP, said their customers were worried over disconnection and had shared their concern with them as well on various blogs. “A number of consultants and employees, who work from home, are actually worried as internet is their bread and butter,” the representative said.
Bangalore Telecom District’s Principal General Manager P. Nagaraju said BSNL had about 3.2 lakh broadband customers and they had not received any complaints.
Sources in the private ISP industry, however, said most of the leading players had laid their OFC cables long ago and ruled out the possibility of any illegality. “Proper permissions had been sought while laying the cable,” said a source questioning the basis of the charges. “They don’t seem to have a system of assessing the legally laid cable and illegally laid cable. Besides, it is not clear what they want.” But, Mr. Ramesh said ISPs had not even spared sewage pipelines to lay unauthorised cables. “When sewage water was not flowing in my area some time back, I was unable to fathom the reason. Only after a few days I realised that its flow had been blocked by an unauthorised OFC,” he said.
At present, the ISPs are not paying anything to the civic body towards ground rent. Following a High Court order, the BBMP is working towards framing the rules for fixing the ground rent, which could range from Rs. 300 to Rs. 600 per metre. He said a report will be submitted to the BBMP Commissioner by November 15.