Internet woes in Silicon Valley of India

Many folks are of the impression that it was the IT boom in the 1990s that transformed a sleepy town
like city into a vibrant, bustling megapolis that it is today. But truth is that this city has always been moving with the times, sometimes a step ahead even. At the beginning of the nineteenth century Bangalore became one of the first cities in Asia where motor vehicles started to be used for the purpose of transport and commuting. Shortly after (1906 was the year) the city also had the honour of becoming one of the first cities in this part of the world to get electricity which was fuelled by hydro power. In that sense, when it comes to science and technology the city of Bangalore has always had an edge over other cities of the country. Three years ago Bangalore became the first city of the country to start with free wifi hot spots to help IT and software professionals connect to the internet from anywhere at anytime. So it is a bit of an irony that Bangalore, widely regarded as the outsourcing capital of the world, has not been able to deliver high speed internet to it’s users.

Before we get into internet speed and data usage there are a few things that need to be made clear. The
world wide web has changed drastically in the last decade. Just take the average size of a web page itself. In the 1990s when the first web pages came into being they were hardly 300 Kilobytes or thereabouts in size. By the year 2010 addition of various softwares, customisations and applications had pushed this upto twice the size to around 700 kilobytes but today in the year 2017 this has shot to become more than 2 megabytes. Programming languages like Javascript and increased use of images is a major reason for this huge jump in webpage size. The implications of this are many. A webpage that is larger in size obviously will take longer time to load and knowing today’s users they will either try and reload the page if it is taking too long or just close it out and re open it.

The second critical factor is that of FUP short for Fair Usage Policy. This policy usually comes into the picture when a user opts for any unlimited plan. In order to ensure that more users get the best out of their broadband connections, internet providers set a data usage limit for users. So once you exceed this FUP limit you will still be able to get access to unlimited data but at reduced speeds. Now to understand the problem all you need to do is go through the broadband plans for all the leading providers in Bangalore and you will notice that there is something amiss. To make matters even more clear just compare these with the plans that the same providers are offering to customers in other cities, like Hyderabad for example. The crux of the problem lies with what happens to your internet speed once the FUP limit has been reached.

As explained already websites are only getting bigger and bigger in size every day and it is likely that every once in a while you will touch the FUP limit much before it is time to recharge. Where in places like Hyderabad your internet speed will still be decent enough (2 megabytes per second) even after the FUP limit has been breached, users in Bangalore are forced to make do with speeds as terribly low as 512/256 Kbps (kilo bytes per second) At these speeds most websites will not load or will take so long to do so that a user will run out of patience. Which means that perhaps in the middle of the month when there is some urgent work to be done your internet provider will leave you high and dry.One only hopes that this anomaly is corrected by the powers that be sooner than later. You cannot be the IT capital of the country and provide users with dial up connection speeds for internet usage. Not done, just not done.

Bangalore – What challenges lie ahead?

Like most of the big cities of the world that are trying to come to terms with rapid and sometimes unplanned urbanisation, the city of Bangalore is grappling with problems of it’s own. Mentioned below are some of the most vexing problems that a citizen of the city has to go through on a daily basis.

Traffic:

A friend who traveled to Bangalore by flight recently had an interesting tale to recount. The amount of time it took her to fly down  from another city to the IT capital of India was much lesser than what it took her to reach her hotel in the city from the airport. To make matters worse, the cab driver who took her to the hotel drove like he was a driver at a Formula One Circuit. Fast and furious.This drives home two crucial points. Public transport in Bangalore is terribly inadequate to meet the demands of this bustling metropolis. And the second being that App based taxis are not really the boon that they are made out to be, especially without effective monitoring. Making it through peak hour traffic is a daily struggle with people fed up with the constant logjams bending rules in the endeavor to get ahead of the crowd. Jumping traffic signals at will, riding bikes on footpaths meant for pedestrians and driving on the wrong side are a common sight during this frenetic hour.

Cost of living: Like most cosmopolitan places in the world, Bangalore has become an extremely expensive city to live and to make a living in. If you are looking to buy land or property in the heart of the city, there is none whatsoever. If you are lucky to find something that is within city limits, it will undoubtedly be insanely expensive putting it out of bounds when it comes to the ordinary citizen. If you opt to buy something that is on the outer periphery of the city, it might cost lesser but brings it’s own set of problems. Robberies in many of the newly developed colonies on the outskirts is a matter of worry. So commuting in the wee hours of the night might not be that safe an option. And again getting around from these places to other parts of the city can be quite cumbersome. The chance of making more money might lure you to this city but high cost of living means that saving some of it might become quite difficult.

Water:

History tells us that as far back as over hundred years ago, the rulers of Bangalore city had the foresight to construct bunds that helped tap into the city’s natural valley systems. At one time there were no less than a staggering hundred odd lakes in Bangalore but owing to unchecked construction, rampant corruption and callous attitude of the in charge authorities things have reached a point where only a mere four lakes remain in good condition. More damagingly, there are over twenty lakes that are in a pitiable state filled with more of waste and very little or no water. New houses, apartments and residential complexes are being built almost every day but with ground water level depleting dramatically, these places lack access to clean, potable water. Of what use is all the life savings that you have poured into your dream house if it does not have basic amenities like water?

Culture: Another casualty of this rapid urbanisation has to be the rich culture and traditions that are unique to the city of Bangalore. What was like a sleepy town in the 1980s has transformed quite  drastically into a behemoth that threatens to devour anything and everything that comes in it’s way. People from all over the country come to Bangalore in search of employment and better career prospects yet they never have a sense of ownership when it comes to the city. The original inhabitants of this city are today reduced to a minority in terms of population and presence. And there cannot be anything more worrying than a city that lacks culture.

Traffic woes in high tech paradise

A recent study done by scientists from the Indian Institute of Science found that Bangalore, the
outsourcing capital of the world is responsible for the second highest amount of carbon dioxide
released while commuting to and from work. And no prizes for guessing who ended up topping the charts. It is none other than Hyderabad, the other IT giant of South India. The study went on to further state that of all the Indian cities where the study was undertaken, these two cities featured right on top
due to a higher concentration of IT professionals. This, they said was mainly due to carbon emissions
during transportation. Life has indeed come a full circle for the two high tech destinations of
Bangalore and Hyderabad.
It was in the 90s when the two capital cities of the southern states Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh first
came into eminence on the world stage. Call it coincidence if you want but at about the same time, both states had Chief Ministers (SM Krishna and Chandrababu Naidu) who wanted to cash in on the opportunities that the IT sector had to offer for their respective states. Thanks to the visionary efforts of this duo today both Bangalore and Hyderabad account for millions of dollars in revenue accrued from software. Not to mention thousands of youngsters from all over the country who not just got jobs but even bettered their career prospects thanks to this sector. But in terms of public transport and infrastructure both the cities have simply not been able to keep pace. A lot of the blame must lie with the shocking apathy coupled with a clear lack of foresight on part of  the administration in both these cities. In both Bangalore and Hyderabad the governments allotted huge amounts of land on the outskirts at throwaway prices and today these software parks are home to some of the largest software companies of the world. Trouble is the employees working in these companies are spread all over the city and lack of proper commuting options means that these folks have to rely on private transport to reach their workplace. And one is not even mentioning the rush hour traffc that the city dwellers experience when the IT professionals head back home. Partly responsible are the IT companies and their head honchos who have failed to sit across the table with the powers that be and arrive at workable solutions for the whole of the city.

Riding on the back of the IT industry several other affiliate industries, R&D facilities and
manufacturing units have set shop and are thriving in these two cities. Which means that the influx of
people from smaller towns and other parts of the country to Bangalore and Hyderabad continues unabated. To make matters worse, attempts to ease the situation by introducing effective public transport options like Metro Rail and Mono Rail have got delayed due to a combination of faulty planning and bureaucratic red tapism. An example of this faulty planning can be seen in the city of Bangalore where an IT professional does not enjoy last mile connectivity. Due to which they are forced to fall back on personal transport to travel some part of the journey. Companies that offer door to door cab services are no better for most of the cab drivers are overworked, underpaid and as a result drive haphazardly on the city roads making life difficult for other commuters.
So what is the way forward? What is it that can be done to ease this situation? There are no easy solutions and certainly nothing that can be fixed in a jiffy. After all this is a mess that has taken decades and will take some time undoing too. The governments in both cities must work together with all stakeholders and take some bold decisions keeping in mind the future. And we, the people must play our part. If we do not act now, it will indeed be too late.

What is it that ails Namma Bengaluru?

A little more than a fortnight ago a shameful incident in Bangalore involving the alleged #massmolestation of some young women by a mob during New Year revelry shocked the whole nation. One uses the word alleged because in the last few days, police officials who have accessed #CCTV footage of that night have found little evidence on camera of any of it actually having transpired. But regardless of whether this incident happened or not, the damage is already done and the image of Bangalore as a safe city for women lies in tatters. That this incident is purported to have taken place in the iconic MG Road makes matters even worse. A perennial favourite with tourists and youngsters alike MG Road is home to some of the best eatouts, shopping arcades and watering holes serving not just the finest of spirits but playing invigorating live music as well.

It was the place where you went to ‘let your hair down’One was fortunate to grow up in Bangalore of the 1980s.This was a time when the roads had more trees than traffic. Mornings meant long walks in the fresh air of the pristine botanical gardens at Lalbagh followed by a hot cup of steaming coffee at quaint coffee bars in South Bangalore. Life in general moved at a languid pace, crime was sparse and it was not for nothing that Bangalore was known as ‘Pensioner’s Paradise’ Weekends meant unlimited fun and entertainment with toy train rides while tucking into ‘cotton candy’ at Cubbon Park followed by an evening at MG Road. The nip in the air that was felt as one walked through the majestic boulevard right at the entrance to MG Road is something that evokes vivid memories to this day. #MGRoad also had half a dozen cinema halls (almost all have closed since) which all had English names (Liberty, Plaza, Lido, Imperial, Bluemoon, Blue Diamond) and exclusively played English movies only.

For half a century and more now, Bangalore has attracted young talents from all over the world to study at it’s renowned educational institutions. But it was only in the 90s that the #IT boom changed the demographics of this city forever. The mindboggling growth in the IT sector meant that, in just a few years this almost sleepy ‘town’ turned into a hub of business and job opportunities for a whole new generation. The problem was that Bangalore, or should one say the government of the day was completely caught unaware and seemed totally ill equipped to handle this mass exodus. Rapid urbanisation coupled with influx of migrants from all over meant that the garden city transformed quickly into a concrete jungle bursting at the seam. Real estate prices shot up, cost of living became expensive, unemployment and crime increased and by the time we entered the new century, Bangalore was by now rechristened to #Bengaluru.

The lackadaisical attitude of successive elected governments has only precipitated matters further. Today if Bengaluru were to look at itself in the mirror, it would see that it has become a shadow of it’s former self. Infrastructure has collapsed, public transport is abysmal and corruption is all pervading. That Bengaluru has become a city of outsiders means there is no sense of pride. No sense of belonging to the city. Respect for age old values and traditions has eroded and making a fast buck any which way is all that is paramount. The genteel, soft spoken #Kannadiga (the local citizen) is becoming an endangered species. In this very vitiated changed scenario, what happened on the night of 31st December 2016 on MG Road was surely unfortunate but not totally unexpected. It is a sad harbinger of how the erstwhile Bangalore has lost it’s former glory. And become the unfathomable mess that Bengaluru is today. But the night is darkest before dawn and hope always floats. Hope this too shall pass.