Kerala declared WiFi as a basic human right, side-by-side with water, food and education. In turn, the state council announced that it will move towards providing WiFi for free to two million citizens from low-income communities; the other 32.8 million would receive the service at a low rate.
“Internet will now become a right for the people and within 18 months the internet gateway would be set up through the K phone network at a cost of INR 1,000 crore ($151,291,000),” Finance Minister Thomas Issac said. Kerala has the highest literacy rate in India, with the highest mobile penetration and more than 30 million connections. The City also has high internet penetration, covering about 20% of households through broadband and another 15% through mobile. According to e-statistics, there is a total of 34.71 internet subscriptions per 100 people and 12.31 million internet subscriptions. Also, a total of 2.68 million are wireline subscribers of which 65% is rural along with 31.13 million wireless subscribers.
India is aiming to make Kerala a digital society by 2020. The ‘Digital Kerala’ blueprint aims to achieve sustainable economic growth, to bridge the digital divide by making the digital infrastructure both accessible and affordable to all. The state’s vision for 2020 would also promote entrepreneurship and in turn produce more job opportunities for young Keralans in the next five years.
Municipal wireless networks, or muni-WiFi, were introduced to cyber discussions in 2013. Despite people’s excitement at having free or cheap internet, many denounced the idea. Pocket Now’s ‘Android Guy’ Joe Levi argues that the term “free” isn’t exactly accurate when describing muni-WiFi. “[Municipalities] pay for them through things like taxes, fees, surcharges, levies, and other fancy government terms that essentially mean you don’t have a choice. Whether you use it or not. Whether you buy your own or not. You have to pay for someone else to access the Internet for “free”” he writes. Other aspects he goes through in his argument include the low performance of muni-WiFi, dubious security, governmental monitoring and the inevitable geotagging.