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Pabal joins the Internet revolution

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DQW Bureau
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The World Wide Web has come to a small village in Maharashtra. With Internet

connections being provided to an area of 2,000 sq km through the Wireless Local

Loop Technology (WLL), Pabal, a small village located 70 km from Pune in

Maharashtra, is all set to join the Internet revolution.

Efforts are underway in the village to provide Internet connections to an

area of 2,000 sq km through the Wireless Local Loop Technology (WLLT). The

technology was developed by the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai, and is

marketed by N-Logue.

The prime mover behind the project is SS Kalbag who set up the Rural

Development Through Educational System (RDES) in Pabal to provide technical

skills to the rural youth. The idea is to make the Internet as popular and

accessible as the cable TV network, which has reached the remotest corners of

the country because of the absence of any monopoly, the presence of hundreds of

small operators, and the fact that it is a lucrative business opportunity.

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A 20-metre-high tower is being constructed at the five-acre Vigyan Ashram, in

Pabal. The pilot phase of the project, which will be completed by March end,

will enable Internet connections over an area of 1,000 sq km. The second phase

of the project will see the construction of a 45-metre-high tower, and another

tower 20 metres high. Although this area is covered by Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd

(VSNL), an Indian ISP, Kalbag has chosen the WLLT as VSNL's clogged lines make

it impossible for the village to log on to the net. The telephone service

providers are not very interested in providing telephone lines in rural areas

because of the costs involved. The cost of laying new lines would be roughly

around Rs 35,000 for a single connection.

Plans are on to take a leased line from the Pabal telephone exchange. A

round-the-clock Internet connection will probably be provided through Satyam

Online, an ISP provider. The Vigyan Ashram will be the conduit for the

potentially large number of local subscribers who will get their connections

through the Local Area Network. Even if 500 subscribers to use the Internet for

an hour, for Rs 20, the project will be able to break even. Kalbag is also

organising PowerPoint presentations at melas (village gatherings) to educate the

villagers of Pabal about the Internet and its various applications. His melas

address a wide audience from industrial units and professionals such as teachers

and doctors to farmers.

Enterprising farmers are being encouraged to set up kiosks all over the

service area. This is expected to be possible at an investment of Rs 50,000.

Kalbag has already received responses to his plan. The kiosks, will charge Rs 20

per hour; kiosk owners could earn a little extra money by charging a nominal sum

for e-mail services. They could also offer value-added services like updating

farmers on market prices and offering the use of webcams.

Nanda Kasabe


CNS

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