Namma Bengaluru: Unauthorised OFCs continue to choke city

Citizens accuse the BBMP of failing to act firmly against telecom companies and internet service providers

Newly-laid roads dug up to lay new cables and optic fibre cables (OFCs) drawn overhead, often bunched on trees and electricity poles, are common sights in the city.

Citizens blame the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) for failing to act tough against the various telecom companies and internet service providers, and allowing them to draw cables indiscriminately. They point out that despite the presence of ducts on either side of many thoroughfares, especially those developed under TenderSURE, cables can still be found bunched overhead. These violations are the result of the lack of a policy on the protocol for service providers.

Though the BBMP has often announced drives to cut unauthorised OFCs, there has not been much impact on the ground. Recently, when the BBMP did remove several metres of unauthorised cables in Sarjapur and Whitefield, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) took objection and claimed that the move was a ‘huge blow to the Digital Bengaluru plan’. The COAI even wrote to the Department of Telecommunications, Government of India, the State government’s chief secretary and several other authorities claiming that the BBMP’s actions “will have a huge impact on connectivity in the IT capital of India”.

₹2 crore fine

According to the BBMP’s OFC Cell, the civic body has collected ₹2 crore from various service providers since December 2015 after removing 1.48 lakh metres of unauthorised overhanging cables. The penalties have been levied in only three of the eight zones – East, West and Mahadevapura.

This is a far cry from what outgoing Deputy Chief Minister and City Development Minister G. Parameshwara had announced in the Legislative Council. He had warned of a ₹25 lakh fine on any government agency or service provider found to have drawn cables without permission.

The civic body maintains that it is acting tough on service providers who are drawing cables without permission and levying penalties. Officials said that while permissions were given by the OFC Cell to applications submitted online by service providers, the monitoring at the ground level, collecting penalties is the responsibility of the zonal and ward engineers.

Former councillor N.R. Ramesh pointed out that the OFC Cell had failed to ensure that service providers only dig the road to the extent for which permission had been granted. “Neither do officials ensure that service providers don’t draw cables overhead, nor ensure that road cutting is minimised or that the road is restored to the original condition,” he said and pointed out that newly-laid roads are also dug up by service providers.

Clement Jayakumar from Doddanekkundi Rising said, “The BBMP needs to have in place protocols for road digging and restoration, barricading, removal of debris with a clear timeline, especially for arterial roads, apart from clearly stating which department within the BBMP is responsible for monitoring the same,” he said.

OFC policy being drafted

‘IT city’ Bengaluru is yet to have a Optic Fibre Cables (OFC) policy, the lack of which is being cited as one of the reasons for mismanagement of OFCs across the city.

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) had drafted a policy and sent it to the Urban Development Department (UDD) in 2016. Though the draft was notified, and suggestions and opinions invited from the public, there has been no progress.

Now, the UDD is reportedly drawing up a fresh policy, taking into account the need and demand for better internet connectivity.

According to sources, a couple of months ago, the UDD had directed the BBMP to issue notices to telecom companies and internet service providers with regard to drawing lines underground. However, the policy will take into account the necessity of overhanging cables in some cases, such as while providing connection to individual houses.

Sources claimed that the policy will focus on clearly defining unauthorised cables, besides laying conditions with regard to road restoration after laying cables.

Though permission to lay new lines is given by the BBMP’s OFC Cell, there is lack of monitoring at the ward level. Sources said that this is also being covered in the policy.

According to the draft, the BBMP will not permit service providers to draw lines overhead, or cut roads, in places where cable ducts are available.

“If these aspects are properly implemented on the ground, the problems of overhanging cables, indiscriminate road cutting and others, will be solved. If penalties and approvals are properly imposed and collected, the BBMP can get a revenue of over ₹300 crore,” a source claimed.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 10:21:19 PM |

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