…Internet price to be less than USD 5 per Mbps 

Phub Dem  

After years of negotiations, the third Internet gateway could finally materialise.

According to foreign affairs minister Dr Tandi Dorji, India has, in principle, agreed to provide the third Internet gateway at the rate Bhutan proposed. However,  India is expected to communicate the decision through a formal channel.

External Affairs Minister of India Dr S Jaishankar conveyed this decision to the Bhutanese government during his recent visit.

Although the Indian government is yet to confirm the exact rate, Dr Tandi Dorji said that the rate per Mbps(megabits per second) will be less than USD 5.

Currently, the country is paying USD 7 per Mbps for the Internet connection through the Siliguri corridor.

Initially, the country was supposed to pay more than USD 10 per Mbps including the friendly rate from Bangladesh. But he said that the government had been negotiating at around USD 1 to 1.5 considering that all expenses were related to the line coming on the powerline that was already established.

He said that the government of India was not positive about the proposal as the rate Bhutan proposed was lesser than what their states were paying.

However, Lyonpo said that negotiating the connection at this rate was historic and a “big achievement” and that the country would realise its impact in a few years.

He said that the government was grateful to India for their generous support and to the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj. “We are grateful to Bangladesh for the friendship rate which is much lower than their local rates.”

As the current Internet connections are through the Siliguri corridor, Lyonpo said a separate connection was essential for redundancy considering the event of an Internet shutdown for two days due to cyclone Amphan.

Besides, he said, the new connection could benefit the eastern dzongkhags and help connect the remote pockets of the country. “The speed of the Internet will be faster.”

Acknowledging the importance of the Internet for a literate society, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering, during the Meet the Press session yesterday, said the Internet is meant to be free and the country should push to reduce the data charges and enhance the access to the Internet. “But users should be responsible.”

Earlier this year, Bangladesh confirmed providing a 10 Gbps IPLC (International Private Leased Circuit) to Bhutan at a friendly rate of USD 3 per Mbps.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh formally conveyed the decision on January 3 to the Royal Embassy of Bhutan in Dhaka through a note verbale.

The press release states that the decision of providing Internet bandwidth and connectivity through Bangladesh territory at a very special rate is an outcome of Bhutanese Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering’s meeting with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on March 24, 2021.

The third Internet international gateway will help make the country an attractive destination for foreign direct investment in information technology (IT) and IT-enabled services and employment generation.

The issues of redundancy, reliability, security and price remain major challenges to harnessing the power of ICT to the dreams of digital transformation.