Small Indian Firms Lining Up To Be ISPs

Small firms are queuing up for ISP licenses.
Privatization of Internet services appears to have unleashed the
entrepreneurial spirit in small
firms throughout the country.

This is evident from the growing list of
applicants who are being invited by the department of telecom (DoT) to
sign the license agreement.

Sources point out that among the applicants, there are more than 12
companies which want to provide nation-wide services (classified as
category A), and just 19 want to provide services in the four metros and
four other major cities (grouped under category B).

The remaining 45
companies have applied for smaller cities and areas which fall under
category C.

So far, sources maintain, just one Mumbai-based firm–Sukhkarta Fin
Trade–has signed up for an ‘all-India’ license.

Among the most easily
recognizable companies in this category are Reliance, for which a
‘conditional’ license agreement has to be framed because it is on the
defaulters’ list of DoT, and the Videsh
Sanchar Nigam Ltd
(VSNL), which has been a monopoly Internet service
provider
thus far and must now sign a new license agreement with DoT, like the
others.

Sources maintain that other aspirants in this group include Punjab
Wireless Systems (Chandigarh), T.S. Associates, and Ircon International.

However, several companies are still making a beeline and approaching
DoT for application forms.

The forms have been in short supply and officials are busy getting 500
copies ready for those who have left their names and demand draft
numbers with the department, sources maintain.

Several big telecom companies have shown their eagerness to start
signing up, maintained an official from DoT.

“We are getting calls
from some of them, but if they have defaulted on payment of license fee
for basic and cellular licenses, they will have to sign a conditional
license,” he added.

“The inquiries have been numerous and varied,” he pointed out. One
caller from Paris wanted to know why there was a ban on Internet
telephony.

Another caller wanted an explanation as to what exactly does
the Internet entail and how he could go about applying to become an
ISP.

By and large, officials have asked these new ‘entrepreneurs’ to visit
the Web site for details
regarding application form, guidelines, general information and the draft
of the license
agreement.

However, officials clarified that they would not entertain any copies of
the application or license agreement downloaded from the Net.

“It could be a good thing to do. Download the form, fill it and send it
to us and then sign the agreement. That’s what the Internet is all
about. But we want to be sure that every word of the agreement to be
signed is unchanged. If somebody introduces innocuous-looking, but
dangerous, changes in the agreement terms, that will be something that
is not allowed,” added the official.

Moreover, he added, “we would
like to check the bonafides of the person and that is something that the
Internet does not allow us to do as yet here.”

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