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2,300-km undersea cable to boost Andamans internet connectivity, PM set to launch project

Project was announced by IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in January and was supposed to be completed by June. However, it got delayed due to Covid-19 lockdown.

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New Delhi: The Chennai-Andaman and Nicobar Island Submarine Cable System (CANI-SMCP), which will provide the island union territory with improved internet connectivity and communications, will finally be launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 10 August.

The project — led by the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) under the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), Department of Telecommunications(DoT) — was announced by Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in January and was slated to be completed by June this year.

It was supposed to be inaugurated in March by President Ram Nath Kovind.

However, the project got delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the virus, according to Murali Krishna, chief general manager of BSNL in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

“The project should now be completed by the end of October,” Krishna told ThePrint.

Also read: Andaman & Nicobar Islands have highest Rt value, UP increases testing but still among lowest

About the project

The ambitious CANI-SMCP involves laying an over 2,300-km long undersea internet cable between Chennai and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

This cable will boost digital connectivity of the islands with the mainland and increase internet connection to nearly three to four times the existing capacity. After this project, it will get a data speed of 400 gigabytes (GB) per second.

Krishna explained that the internet connectivity project sought to increase the speed of broadband connectivity for both wired and wireless connections.

However he also pointed out that the CANI-SMCP had nothing to do with 4G connection. “That is altogether a different matter,” said Krishna.

Under this project, which costs about Rs 1,224 crore, BSNL will send several of its workers and equipment to lesser known locations in Andaman and Nicobar such as Swaraj Dweep, Little Andaman and Rangat, to ensure that even the most remote areas of the UT have internet connectivity.

According to Krishna, the internet bills in Andaman and Nicobar will also come down substantially after this. At present, the residents of the islands pay exorbitant prices for an internet connection.

On 7 June, BJP spokesperson for its Andaman and Nicobar Islands unit, Dr T.K. Jijith Rekh, posted a bill of his internet broadband connection, which was more than Rs 50,000 for one month.

This project will lower the amount to less than Rs 10,000 a month.

Also read: Govt lays out alternative study plan for classes 1 to 5, gives a fix for bad internet

Internet advocacy group pushed for project

While the project was stalled, internet advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) had filed an RTI in June seeking a status update on the project after several people from the union territory reached out to the group on Twitter.

The IFF also sent many representations to the PMO and the Department of Telecommunications and wrote to Kuldeep Rai Sharma, MP from Andaman and Nicobar Islands, asking him to take up the matter with the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

Apar Gupta, advocate and executive director of IFF, told ThePrint that several students and professionals could not access classes or work, especially during the lockdown, due to poor internet connection.

Gupta explained: “Poor internet connectivity is not only about internet disruptions but also about the lack of access to the internet. There are many states aside from Andamans and Jammu and Kashmir, which have poor internet connectivity. For example, the interior regions of Odisha have very poor connectivity.”

Also read: Look at the numbers: Why Digital India can’t afford internet shutdowns with slowing economy


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