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The State of Broadband in India – A Call for Regulatory Neutrality

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CIRC, Working Paper No. 10. New Delhi: CUTS Institute for Regulation & Competition.(Digital Regulation in India)




This paper is a commentary on digital regulation in India. In the age of AI and AR/VR, it is essential to remember that universal broadband connectivity is still a sine qua non for progress in an increasingly virtual world. The Telecom Regulator has recently commenced a consultation process on the issue of what needs to be done to deliver broadband quickly. Despite repeated consultations and recommendations relating to broadband and the launch in 2012 of an ambitious Universal Service Obligation Fund-sponsored project to implement a national optic fibre network, India continues to have a dismally inadequate supply of broadband services, especially in rural areas where it is practically negligible. The abnormally low wirelines to wireless connection ratio is a significant part of this problem. The number of wirelines in India is declining despite considerable support from the state towards wireline infrastructure, which continues to be mainly in the hands of the incumbents. A significant part of this support flows from the Universal Service Obligation Fund. This paper tries to examine the problem of poor broadband penetration in India, specifically from the perspective of regulatory neutrality and postulates that rectifying regulation by bringing in a focus on competitive and technological neutrality is a significant part of what needs to be done.