Free WiFi for Delhi* —– Conditions Apply

AAP made many poll promises which caught the imagination of the Delhi voter. One such promise was about the 15 lakh CCTV cameras, which was not quantified in the manifesto, yet Kejriwal declared it and the media hyped it. This may as well become one of AAP’s “chunavi jumla” because as we have explained before, it just may not be feasible. Another often repeated promise was that of “Free WiFi in entire Delhi”.

This Free WiFi promise though was clearly specified in their 70 point programme for Delhi:

38. Wi-Fi Delhi: We will make Wi-Fi freely available in public spaces across Delhi. Citywide Wi-Fi can help in bridging the digital divide. It will also provide an impetus to education, entrepreneurship, business, employment, and also tie in with women’s safety initiatives.

Note that there are no terms and conditions attached here. But today, this newspaper clipping is doing the rounds, which quotes AAP MLA and former Apple executive Adarsh Shastri, who adds that there are some “Terms and Conditions” to Free WiFi:

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As per the news report, the Free WiFi will be subject to following conditions:

1. WiFi only in Public places

2. WiFi will be free for the first 30 minutes after which it is chargeable

3. WiFi cannot be used for “Private uses” such as Email, Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp

From the above three terms, only the first is spelt out in the 70 point programme. The fact that WiFi will be free only for the first 30 minutes is not mentioned anywhere. This is what most people online are outraging about now, calling it a U-Turn. Unfortunately for them, AAP had clearly said declared this condition, not in the manifesto, but to media way back in November 2014.

This is clearly a failure on part of the media, to highlight the difference between what AAP promises in writing, and what AAP says orally. More-over, the BJP media cell has to be blamed for not identifying this “chunavi jumla” from AAP and not disseminating this information to public at large. Remember how all parties and media jumped on BJP for using the term “immigrants” for  people from the North East in their manifesto. This is where BJP lost the battle for Delhi, and who knows how many more such failures will come to the fore in the future.

Also, please pay attention to the third condition, that AAP will decide which services can be used via free WiFi. While AAP must have readily sold this Free WiFi promise to Delhi’s youth in exchange for votes, it deliberately hid the fact that most popular services used by youth will not be allowed such as Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and even Email. This is a clear case of misrepresentation to the public of Delhi.

This condition also raises an important issue of Net Neutrality. Net neutrality is a concept which states that Internet Service Providers should treat all data on the internet equally, without using discriminatory charges for usage. Most recently, Airtel was in a soup for proposing higher net usage charges for VoIP services. This is a typical modus operandi of telecom operators to overcharge their customers.

Will companies like Airtel now use this as a precedent to further its own interests of violating Net Neutrality by saying “look, even the Government is doing it”? Or was AAP pressurised by any Telecom companies to exclude popular services like Facebook, Whatsapp etc. from its Free WiFi service, so that there is no revenue loss to such Telecom companies?

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