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Coronavirus outbreak: As work heads home, agencies bolster digital capacity

On Friday, the DoT relaxed the rules for “Other Service Providers” (OSPs) to create “Work from Home” facilities without requiring prior permission. OSPs are defined as tele-banking, tele-medicene, tele-trading, e-commerce, and other non-telecom services.

Written by Karishma Mehrotra | New Delhi | Published: March 15, 2020 2:54:24 am
With 19 coronavirus cases confirmed so far, Kerala has implemented the strongest quarantine measures to stem the flow.

With employees and students retreating from physical gatherings, government agencies are looking at bolstering digital capacities to handle the shift. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has eased rules to help IT companies transition to “work from home” in the wake of coronavirus, while the IT Department in Kerala, the state with the most confirmed cases so far, has worked with telecom companies to bolster network capacity after struggling to convince coaching classes in the state to transfer lessons online.

With 19 coronavirus cases confirmed so far, Kerala has implemented the strongest quarantine measures to stem the flow.

“We were worried about entrance coaching classes because they would not disband classes. This required quality internet service, which (the concept of) ‘work from home’ also requires,” Kerala IT Secretary M Sivasankar said.

“The classes have now been disbanded. We have managed to provide quality browsing through this timely meeting of telecom companies,” he said.

Sivasankar has met with officials of internet service providers such as BSNL, Reliance Jio, Airtel, Idea, Asianet, Tala Teleservices, and PowerGrid for this purpose. The stakeholders agreed to reroute internet data traffic in Kerala so that the network can withstand a 40-per cent increase in usage. Sivasankar said this was done by ensuring 80 per cent data was retrieved from data servers in Kerala, and 20 per cent from those in the rest of India.

“We have seen (internet) usage increase in the past two days primarily because of coaching classes. We have also seen hyper-local areas where there is a higher demand for browsing. The telcos are responding to those areas,” he said.

On Friday, the DoT relaxed the rules for “Other Service Providers” (OSPs) to create “Work from Home” facilities without requiring prior permission. OSPs are defined as tele-banking, tele-medicene, tele-trading, e-commerce, and other non-telecom services.

Online education platforms are leveraging the moment to provide free subscriptions and courses.

In Delhi, schools such as British School are introducing primary- and secondary-level students to virtual systems, and some private schools are provided worksheets through log-in systems for self-study.

“We are certainly only talking about 1 or 2 per cent of schools which have online systems,” Osama Manzar, head of Digital Empowerment Foundation, said. “(But) what about the municipality school in Delhi? They (students) might not be connected at home. The current scenario is an initial proof of concept to test in a quarantine if our education infrastructure is being enabled by digital connectivity.”

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created a “Keep Americans Connected Pledge” on Friday to “ensure that Americans do not lose their broadband or telephone connectivity as a result of these exceptional circumstances,” according to FCC chairman Ajit Pai.

The pledge, signed by Google Fiber, AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, guarantee that the company will waive late feeds, open up WiFi hotspots, and not terminate services to residential or small business customers even if they can’t pay their bills.

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