It Happens

Bangalore’s Infotech Eyesore

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With no reliable optic fibre cables policy, telecom companies are forced to lay wires randomly
They’ve been strung up casually on trees and electric poles. Sometimes they hide underneath sewer lines and jut out of cracked footpaths. They are responsible for Bangalore’s image as an infotech powerhouse and its No 1 status among Indian metros for broad band penetration, usage, bandwidth and carrying capacity. But Bangalore lacks a credible optic fibre cable (OFC) policy, forcing telecom companies to lay the thick and expensive cables at night, hoodwinking the Bangalore Bruhat Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), whose permission is mandatory for laying them.

A BBMP sub-committee looking to turn the OFC policy into a revenue earner has estimated that as much as 30,000-plus km of OFCs lie exposed all over the city. The sub-committee began its mission by cutting a few cables earlier this month in localities where citizens complained of wires and illegal junction boxes.

Bangalore’s new mayor BS Sathyanarayana is serious about tackling this problem. He says OFC companies earn an approximate carrying charge of Rs 23 lakh per km from telecom companies and wants a small part of it to be paid as laying and road cutting charges. “We admit we don’t have a proper OFC policy in place. The BBMP is trying to fix a reasonable amount to charge these companies so that they can go about their businesses properly instead of illegally routing cables as well as stringing them up overhead,” he says.

Cable companies and their partners allege that approvals are often mired in red tape and bribery, forcing them to draw cables where possible.

In advanced countries, OFCs pass underground and share space with other utilities. But, in Indian cities, as each agency prefers its own way of doing things, power, water pipes, gas, OFCs, sewage pipes, cable networks and telephone lines criss-cross each other in a maze.

Sathyanarayana says once a proper policy is laid down, the revenue earned can be used to conduct the business in an organised fashion. “We can look at building permanent ducts along roads or footpaths with access to service them,” he says. There is consensus that an organised policy is what’s needed, and not cutting cables and threatening telecom companies.