Govt to bundle free movies with internet for first time users

NEW DELHI: In a bid to attract first time Internet users in far flung areas of the country, the common service centres (CSCs) or digital kiosks are planning to offer consumers in remote areas access to a catalogue of over 4,000 movies and other entertainment content. According to a top official, CSCs have been given the mandate to offer last mile Internet connectivity through BharatNet to homes through a system of pre-paid monthly coupons. These services can be either through Wi-Fi or direct to home fibre


“Movies and entertainment seems to be a good proposition to get people to pay for the Internet for the first time,” said a senior government official. The person added that whoever purchases the Internet coupons from the CSCs will be offered free movies and entertainment content initially. “It’s a strategy to make people get a taste of internet before driving more use cases,” added the person.

Recently, minister for electronics and IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad announced that Internet services offered by all CSCs will be free till March 2020. BharatNet, government’s high speed broadband network which is currently active at close to 1.25 lakh gram panchayats will cover a total of 2.5 lakh locations in its second phase.

Once CSCs start charging for the Internet services, the coupons will priced differently for different regions and will be under Rs. 500 per month.

The ministry of electronics and IT (MEITY) run CSCs which have a network of over 3.6 lakh across the country have partnered with Zee-owned SugarBox Networks for the initiative which will be run as a pilot in 100 locations to test the response initially.

The official said in many remote parts of the country, broadband services from private players have not reached and 4G mobile connectivity is patchy. High speed broadband through BharatNet – which will enable fast streaming or downloads — will give CSCs the edge over private players who may be offering mobile services in those areas.

Rohit Paranjpe, co-founder and CEO of SugarBox Networks told ET that installing the SugarBox in an area will help in optimizing the broadband usage therefore improving the overall viewing experience of the users. “We are piloting it for six months to see the consumptions trends… Post that we can work out several pricing models including something like a movie streaming pack for Rs. 5 per month in an area.” Paranjpe added that the company is working on launching more services such as gaming, ecommerce and e-learning among others through its platform.

RailTel has also chosen SugarBox to provide content on demand (CoD) services for the Indian Railways on trains and railway stations across the country. The project is expected to be completed by 2022 and will be implemented in trains pan-India, including suburban rail networks.

The pilot across 100 locations which includes places cities like Patna and Varanasi is expected to be completed by next month.