Google will provide superfast broadband at 100 of India’s railway. This move is expected to benefit up to 10 million people every day.
Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai said, “When I was a student, I relished the day-long railway journey I would make from Chennai Central station (then known as Madras Central) to IIT Kharagpur, I vividly remember the frenetic energy at the various stations along the way and marveled at the incredible scale and scope of Indian Railways.”
The initiative was announced by Pichai as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the company’s headquarters in Silicon Valley.
The project’s initial aim is to connect the first 100 stations by the end of 2016, which will make Wi-Fi available for the more than 10 million people who pass through these stations every day with the eventual goal to connect up to 400 stations. This will be the largest public Wi-Fi project in India and among the largest in the world, by number of potential users.
The service will be faster than what most people in India have access to today, with Google promising it will allow travelers “stream a high definition video while they’re waiting, research their destination, or download some videos, a book or a new game for the journey ahead.”
Access to the superfast Wi-Fi network will initially be free with the long-term goal of making it self-sustainable to allow for expansion to more stations and other places in the future by working with Indian Railways and RailTel, which provides Internet access along the railway infrastructure.
India is set to be one of the most lucrative markets for technology companies in the coming years, with over one billion people yet to connect to the Internet regularly, and with smartphone penetration still at under 15 percent.
On the other hand, in a show of opposition to the venture, over 100 academics at U.S. universities signed a letter warning major technology companies of the risks of doing business with a government that has “demonstrated its disregard for human rights and civil liberties, as well as the autonomy of educational and cultural institutions.”
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