On December 27, President Ram Nath Kovind formally launched Andhra Pradesh State Fiber Net Limited (APSFL), an AP state public sector unit. APSFL aim is to provide high-speed internet along with television and telephone facilities at nominal rates across the state by using newly setup fiber grid networks. 

However, provision of high speed connectivity by the state would be a welcome step, APSFL has been mired in controversies right from the start. Questions have been raised about the tenders issued to private bodies to its implementation mechanism. On the other side, opposition parties are arguing that this project is an attempt to take control over the media and internet services to further the interests of ruling Telugu Desam Party. 

While the flagship project was said to provide services including internet, TV and phone facilities at Rs 149 and Rs 999 for households and institutions respectively, but in order to obtain premium services, the prices are Rs 599 and Rs 2499 for households and institutions, not less than services provided by private agencies. Upon this, 18 percent GST will be levied. 

Households have to get a specified set-top box of cost Rs 4000 to obtain the services. Reportedly, Andhra Pradesh government has imported 10 lakh new set-top boxes from China.

Reportedly, the state government will be able to regulate any website or channel at any given time from its central office in Amaravati. 

Alleging this as a multi-crore scam, India Today has reported that the directors of Tera Software Limited company which got Rs 320 crore project from APSFL are also directors in Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s family owned Heritage group.

Though there is only little response among citizens towards this project, it has been reported that the cable operators have been asked to force their customers to take up fibernet connections.

State Congress leader UndavalliArun Kumar alleged that Chandrababu Naidu’s government is forcing the project upon the citizens despite their lack of interest towards it. In a press conference, he said “people must voluntarily choose the fiber net connections, however, the state government is trying to impose it upon the households.” While criticizing the rates of APSFL, he said that people expect better offers from the government but this one is a “blackmailing offer”.

Arun Kumar speculated that with this fibernet project, the Telugu Desam Party is planning to take over the control over internet and television channels. He pointed out that earlier in 2015, news channel Ntv services were interrupted by the influence of Telugu Desam Party leaders. – News Click