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The Internet

Rural India Could Get Internet Access Via Railway 194

Anonymous Coward writes "The BBC reported today on a pilot project underway in India that would bring the Internet to rural India in an affordable way. They are using the spare capacity of the communications and control cabling used for the electrified railway tracks. They also plan to set up cybercafe kiosks at the railway stations." And remember, there are more than 38,000 miles of railway in India.
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Rural India Could Get Internet Access Via Railway

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  • Those Railroad Tycoon guys will have the little lightbulbs flashing
  • I have this mental image of little bits travelling to the outer reaches of India, saying "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can..."

    I think it's time for my Lithium pill now.


    --

  • Makes good sense to me. Before you have reliable power, make sure you have access to the internet.

    Although, I am a big fan of networks, the internet, and what not, does this really make any sense. Isn't it more important to have electricity you can rely on before you worry about internet cafes?

    Well, maybe I should get in on something early.

    How about I wire the moon for cable TV?

    timbu

  • I wonder how fast railroads can support in terms of connection speed. I for one am spoiled by cable.

    ---------------
  • I would imagine that the bandwidth would not be all that great. But I'm sure that the realativaly(sp?) small number of users will help solve that problem.


    -----
    If my facts are wrong then tell me. I don't mind.
  • ...a ddos attack was initiated against the indian railway system. approximately 300 are dead after two trains smashed head-on into each other...

    --

  • Actually, it'll sound more like...

    I think I can, I think > 1 #an, , ,I think I _+ can>>, I th#$_ I can, , Ith#*$!, I th-nnk..#&/BODY>^NO CARRIER

    This is the 'net, right? :)

  • by Alik ( 81811 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @01:52PM (#1037281)
    (Boy, I seem to spend a lot of time pointing out problems anymore. Yeesh. I'm turning into a leech.)

    1) You're running on the spare carrying capacity of a dedicated control system? Just how much spare bandwidth is there on this thing? Knowing how much money India generally has to toss around, I can't imagine that they've built a whole lot of extra in there. If this gets implemented on a national scale, won't there be congestion from hell?

    2) What do people in the villages need with the Internet anyway? They're currently working on a model where there's one woman who's the "phone lady" and who acts as the primary link to other villages. Despite what pundits claim, you can't really get much of an education from the Web alone (yet). If I were a person in a rural Indian village, I'd be more interested in getting me some of that modern plumbing and health care before I wanted to go read Slashdot. It's basic Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs stuff.

    Then again, maybe somebody wants to auction off a used water buffalo on eBay...
  • Except from the fact that this is bringing internet access to what might be considered as a "third world country" on a larger scale (which is great), I can't really see what's so special about this. Because AFAIK one of the major Swedish networks, SUNET, has been built around the Swedish Railroads Signal System/network since the beginning, years and years ago.

  • News flash!

    The Chinese government announced today that the Great Wall's unused communications wires will be used for the internet. It will be the only internet connection visible from space, and the only one in the world with a human back-up capability. (If the cables fail, messengers will be sent on top of the wall)

    News flash!

    The world's deadliest internet connection went online today when the unused wires of the Los Angeles subway system were converted for data transmission. AOL, the owner of the new link, says it is not responsible for muggings and shootings.

    News flash!

    Scientists at MIT have succeeded today in turning a poodle into a 10Mbps data link. While the technology is still in its infancy, analysts speculate that in the future the internet will no longer rely on wires or satellites. Instead, roads will be artificially sprayed with water to form large puddles.

  • While the US also has a rail network, we don't have this particular need. However, we could perhaps exploit it in a different way. Wouldn't it be nice to have Internet access available while you're *on* a train? Instead of having to rely on spotty CDPD, Amtrak could install Ethernet jacks. Assuming we also have such spare capacity, and that it can be tapped by the running trains.
  • The one I had was of people loading a bunch of CDs onto a train, shipping them out to the farthest reaches of India, waiting for the responses, and shipping them back. Talk about horrible latencies! But the bandwidth would probably be OK...
  • by emerson ( 419 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @01:56PM (#1037286)
    I'm reminded of a story my housemate showed me at one point, where some telcos in South America were having trouble with people digging up and reselling any copper line they laid.

    Solution? They placed 56K frame signals (or maybe it was X.25, my memory is fuzzy) on the existing barbed wire fences; nobody was going to cut those down and risk losing their cattle, in fact, that made for free repairs of the frame line, since the ranchers would repair the fence on their own dime....

    --
  • by spack ( 43763 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @01:57PM (#1037287)
    Now, does the Slashdot crew need to update the faq for the new readers from India that explains how Slashdot karma works? On the other hand, it would be fun to imply that bad posts may result in being continuously reincarnated as spam messages for all eternity.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    1) They have plenty of money to toss around on nukes, it seems...

    2) Hmm could've sworn I saw one of those villages on an IBM commercial ;)
  • which began as a unit of the Southern Pacific Rail Corp. (thus the 'Spr'). The telegraph and telephone lines that ran along the tracks became the backbone of their long-distance network.
  • I think this is an excellent idea, and one that should be checked out by other developing nations looking for a boost into the present.

    There are several problems with using this, (not that it is a bad idea, of course, these are just some little facts...)

    The first and foremost has to be the quality of the lines. I doubt they are of the highest quality, and definetely not noise free. So we'll get some packet loss, and voice over net won't work well.

    The second is the exposure of these lines to the elements. Meaning, LIGHTNING.

    Radhick: "2.50 for three hours? Okay, here you go."
    sits down at the computer and grabs the mouse
    Station announcement:"Storm Warning!! Storm Warning!!"
    Radhick: "Hey, I think I'll check a weather si-YEEEEAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!" bzzt.

    Another thing to consider (another packet loss and noise problem) is running the data lines next to lines that could have fairly large amounts of power running with them. Parrallell to them... Bad Ju Ju, If I recall.

    Like I said before, I think this is an excellent idea. I'm pretty sure the folks doing this know what they're doing, and again, ANYTHING is better than nothing. Well... anything except for that whole lightning bit...

    krystal_blade

  • On the second issue, I think that Internet may not be useful *yet* (as you say) to small rural villages; on the other hand, it has the *potential* to break the cultural barriers, especially for small and poor villages. Let's face it: how many families owned Encyclopaedia Britannica last year, and how many own a PC and access to britannica.com today?
    Internet is *necessary* and relative cheap way to to improve education to the poor
  • You obviously have no idea, I know my mother's company (A large investment firm) has many people in India who write code for them. There are areas in India which *are* technologically advanced, mainly the large cities. Problem is, the Indian programmers get paid about 1/2 of the american ones, but the good ones get promoted to work in america. And so what if the less advanced cultures are trying to use the internet to communicate with other english-speaking people. You don't own the internet, and you can't say that its only for English Speaking Technoids, I'm sorry, but that's the way it is. I have to deal with people speaking broken/no english every day in school, but I deal with those people as best I can, some of them actually turn out to be decent people once you get to know them, so please try not to judge people based on how technologically advanced their country is but instead what kind of people they are in general

  • by MrKevvy ( 85565 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @02:06PM (#1037293)
    Perhaps someone misunderstood the term "network engineer."
  • This interesting article [wired.com] a few years ago on Wired [wired.com] talks about the methods used by Qwest to pull fibre here in the good ol' USA. Interestingly a railroad track is one of the few features that make the straightest line posible between 2 points, and also cut straight across political and zoneing issues.

    From the article:"In Georgia, the rail plow is ahead of schedule, digging up the red clay at a rate of three miles a day. One moment Smith and Meiklejohn are calculating how long it will take the man who restores the gravel portion near the track to catch up with the unexpectedly fast work of the plow. The next moment they're determining where the nine-car train can be pulled off the tracks so a scheduled freight can pass."

    Useing the existing railroad system solves many other logisticle issues such as how to get thousands of miles of fibre optic cable to the rail plow in an affordable way (by rail!, of course).
    ___

  • (I'm from Bombay, India, so I think I can speak... :)

    Railways are a bad idea, IMO. The reason is that more than half the people on the rail didn't even buy a ticket. They are literally hanging off the sides of the train, and the cops can't get them off because there's way too many of them. If they had any money to spend on Internet access, they'd be spending it on food.

    A lot of the people who bought a ticket are most likely going to their families (whom they haven't seen in a long time because they didn't have the money...) and will hardly give a shit about 'net access. This isn't a sap story, it's the truth.

    The other percentage that actually has the money to spend would be quite small and wouldn't give much of a return.

    Where they *should* put this stuff is in those rich country club type places. Those are the only people who have enough money to put into a computer or 'net access anyway. And, placed correctly (like at a few select tables in the restaurant or something like that) could easily be a conversation piece.
  • Everyone's got to start somewhere. Each new group of Net users has been greeted with the same comments (Demon, AOL...) People tend to wise up or get tired of their new abused toy.

    I think the more people on the Net the better, and the more variety of people the better yet. Not everything of worth comes from those the same as us (from the point of view of the original US Netties, who would have expected Linux to come from outside the US?)

    Ethnocentric or maybe even racist, perhaps; missing what I consider to be a big point of the Net, certainly.
  • Well, having ridden the rails extensively in India, I agree that this is a good way to link lots of places together, electronically or otherwise.

    But the availability question is a different matter. Tracks are continuously under repair and/or conversion to standard gauge. I hope that the network users are willing to use UUCP or some non-realtime protocol with a reasonable retry threshhold.
    -
    bukra fil mish mish
    -
    Monitor the Web, or Track your site!
  • 1) They have plenty of money to toss around on nukes, it seems...

    Well, nukes ain't as costly as they used to be. I mean, when you get right down to it it's just some lumps of fissionable material and a device to keep them apart until you want the thing to go boom. Most 50-year-old technology is pretty simple to implement these days.

    More importantly, though, being able to nuke the Pakis is clearly more important that educating and improving the lifestyle of the populace. If you educate them, how will they be dumb enough to go and sit in Kashmir and freeze and be shot at? Geez. Don't you know anything about public policy? :-)
  • by Alik ( 81811 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @02:14PM (#1037299)
    . Let's face it: how many families owned Encyclopaedia Britannica last year, and how many own a PC and access to britannica.com today?
    Internet is *necessary* and relative cheap way to to improve education to the poor


    But use of britannica.com assumes a whole lot of skill sets. The biggest one I can think of offhand is that you've got to be able to read and type English. A rural village in India is not like a bumblefuck Midwest town (to use a stereotype) where people are a bit set in their ways but still cognizant of basic civilized skills. A rural village in India contains people who cannot read Indian dialects, let alone English. In many cases, there is nothing even resembling a school. These days, the kids are likely to have been vaccinated thanks to the WHO, but that's about it. Before they can make use of the Internet, they've got to get a whole lot of knowledge about what a computer is and how to use one.

    These aren't the poor we're used to. I've been to India a few times to visit my family there, and I've seen their poor. It is, quite literally, a whole 'nother country. Technology does not yet truly exist out in the Indian countryside. In another decade, it may, but I still think they'd be better served with clean water and health care than a T1. If you ask them what they'd like, I suspect you'll get much the same answer. (Yes, they do see education as a way to assure a future. However, in order to get a good education, one must be in decent health.)
  • by isaac_akira ( 88220 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @02:14PM (#1037300)
    Do we really need more posts like "how r u doin? do u study? i am 14 Indian. I m usin intrnet for 1st time"

    I think this is a GREAT thing! Sure, YOU may not want to talk to that 14 year old from India, but get him talking with a 14 year old from Pakistan and see how long it takes for those two kids to realize they have a lot in common. When you have all the kids growing up and talking to eachother, maybe they can make a difference in their countries' relations.

    I agree with the other posts about plumbing and electricity probably being more important in the near term, but don't underestimate the power of communication. So many problems we face today are the result of groups being isolated from eachother and not understanding eachother. The Internet is one way of changing that.

    - Isaac =)
  • Perhaps i'm wrong, but the new high speed trains [acela.com] that Amtrak will be using in the eastern corridor (and maybe someday, hopefully, out west), have some kind of net access on-board.
  • FWIW, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is a classic model of how NOT to do psychology. It's an interesting, captivating, intuitive look at the human psyche, but it was based on no evidence. The massive amounts of studies done on it have proven it wrong over and over. People tend to skip severeal layers at once, ignore some layers, etc.
  • Another problem - unfortunately most developing countries (esp. those in south america) are in the process of destroying the rail systems it took so many years to build. So, by the time such a system becomes viable, there is no track to use it on anymore.
  • by Ami Ganguli ( 921 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @02:18PM (#1037304) Homepage

    You're spoiled by the relatively reliable power available in the West. I'm sure the people in rural India would love to have more reliable power, but they're used to not having it. Rotating blackouts (because of lack of capacity) are a way of life.

    The internet could bring with it educational opportunities that would be impossible otherwise. This is far more important in the long term than a few hours a day of extra power.

    Plus, solving the energy problem would be very expensive. Power stations cost millions of dollars. That money would be better spent on sanitation systems. Internet access provided by existing cabling could be quite cheap.

  • Scientists at MIT have succeeded today in turning a poodle into a 10Mbps data link. While the technology is still in its infancy, analysts speculate that in the future the internet will no longer rely on wires or satellites. Instead, roads will be artificially sprayed with water to form large puddles.

    Well, I would rather slosh through puddles than poodles, but that's because I have a dog and know what they can be like :-)

  • I think this is a GREAT thing! Sure, YOU may not want to talk to that 14 year old from India, but get him talking with a 14 year old from Pakistan and see how long it takes for those two kids to realize they have a lot in common. When you have all the kids growing up and talking to eachother, maybe they can make a difference in their countries' relations.

    Dude, I so wish this could happen. Unfortunately, the hate and rhetoric run so deep between the two countries that it has trickled down to the kids. Both countries' children believe that the other country is a mortal enemy, and it would be difficult for two anonymous IM'ers to not get past this hate. If the internet can help even a few Indians and Pakistanis realize how foolish the war is, then this project is more than worth it.
  • Hey, we listened to that Sigmund guy for years, and nobody ever bothered to validate his theories. Even stranger, some people are actually helped by psychoanalysis. If it works, it works...

    People tend to skip severeal layers at once, ignore some layers, etc.

    I don't think that invalidates the model, though. As I understand it, the degree of each need is individualized; if you don't have much need for a given layer, you'll probably just pop right up to the next.

    I'd be interested in some pointers to those studies that invalidate it; post here or use my email, I don't care. They're still teaching the Hierarchy to psych majors, so I'd like to see if there's a gaping flaw in my education.
  • In the old early times of telegraph, they'd transmit the electric signal over the rails.

    Now, judging by the girth there's got to be lots of bandwidth in those. ;-)
  • 1) There are almost always spare cables pulled when a control system is put in, for future expansion. Much of the cabling was put in when 1 signal == 1 pair of wires. Now, with modern computerised signalling techniques, 100's of signals == 2 pairs of wires. The extra wires can now be re-used for other things, they won't be carrying railway signals any more.

    The highest cost of the internet, magnitudes higher than the routers and PCs, is the physical connection between distant points.

    These signal lines will probably not carry web traffic, but lots of store and forward protocols such as email and batch file transfer. But a single linux box in an internet kiosk could provide thousands of villagers with an email address. Larger centres with higher bandwidth could have web browsing available.

    2) Not all of indian villages are as primitive as the lowest tier model you mention. Many towns and villages are fairly modern by indian standards, but wireline telephone services are severely lacking because of many problems, copper is stolen by bandits, the population is quite evenly spread out everywhere, with only a few very dense centres making the economics look good. Electricity is starting to penetrate even into the most desolate places. Reliability is poor, but even with 6-12 hours of electricity per day, that's still good enough to route some email.

    The most striking thing about india is that many of the poorest people seem to have a lot of free time. If they could be in school learning, they would. If there were jobs available for them, they would be working. With so much time available to them, I would love to see it channeled into learning about the internet and linux and all the other benefits a little knowledge brings. But that can't happen until the internet gets out to kiosks in railway stations in their area.

    Maslow's Hierarchy isn't completely relevant here. People who have lived without plumbing don't absolutely require it before starting other projects to improve their lives. As their lives improve, then they will fill in the missing parts. But that doesn't exclude using the internet until there are enough doctors in india to meet everyone's needs.

    the AC
  • Well... I made some calculations:

    I started with the following:

    • India has 38000 linear miles of rail
    • India is 1.2 million square miles in size
    If most rail in India is perpendicular (i.e. either North-South or East-West), and this is split pretty much evenly, then there is about 19,000 miles of rail parallel to each axis. Since railroad tracks are contiguous, you can estimate the average distance between parallel tracks to be 1,200,000/19,000 miles apart, or about 63 miles apart. Doing this you can then extrapolate that the average Indian homeowner lives about 32 miles from the nearest train-track.

    In my opinion, that's still a large amount of cable to run... Especially when, in the states, we're so worryed about "the last mile" bottleneck.

    Comments?

  • OK, good point. Reliable sanitation before electricity.

    Still last time I check most internet access devices need electricity to work.

    timbu

  • The most striking thing about india is that many of the poorest people seem to have a lot of free time. If they could be in school learning, they would. If there were jobs available for them, they would be working. With so much time available to them, I would love to see it channeled into learning about the internet and linux and all the other benefits a little knowledge brings. But that can't happen until the internet gets out to kiosks in railway stations in their area.

    C'mon. What do most people do with this powerful learning tool? They pirate MP3s, buy stuff, and download gigabytes of porn. People are people. They want pleasures. I know that most of my Internet use could not be construed as educational; it's social interaction at best.

    Not to mention that if bandits are willing to swipe the phone lines, they're probably willing to swipe a Web kiosk...

    Maslow's Hierarchy isn't completely relevant here. People who have lived without plumbing don't absolutely require it before starting other projects to improve their lives. As their lives improve, then they will fill in the missing parts. But that doesn't exclude using the internet until there are enough doctors in india to meet everyone's needs.

    This is true. However, there is a finite amount of government money to spend. I maintain that there is more social benefit to be reaped from fixing health problems than from handing out Internet connections. The Internet is a really sweet toy, but in the end it still serves most people as nothing more than a toy.
  • > 2) What do people in the villages need with the > Internet anyway?

    I have decided that anyone stupid enough to ask
    this question doesn't deserve Internet access.

    You are hereby sentenced to spend the next year
    crapping in your hand and sucking water from the
    atmosphere in order to inconvenience Us Really
    Important People to the smallest possible
    degree (and tell your damned kids to stay the
    hell out of MY BANDWIDTH.)

    Come back next year and tell us if you've got it
    yet.

    Baudtender
  • by mortenal ( 160635 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @02:46PM (#1037314)
    That'll be some bitchy latency! You'll have to wait for the computer to print each packet, wait for the train to come, send the packets out on the train, (there will probably be a charge for each packet), where a person at the main station types your packets into the computer, gets the response, prints the response, and sends it to (hopefully) you via the next train... you then type in the packet, and (drumroll please), you get a webpage!!! (if everybody typed right). Imagine playing quake on that!

    yes, i read the article. that was humor.
  • 38,000 miles of railway seemed a bit low to me for a country the size of India.

    www.indianrailway.com/railway has the goods.

    62,000 route kilometres, 1,007,000 track kilometres.

    That's 38,750 miles and 629,375 miles respectively.

  • Just think - now some obscure village in India will have a 'fatter pipe' than you!

    Groan and bear it :)

    --
  • Let's not forget one of the main problems w/ an Internet Cafe, that implies they might have food... I'm thinking that Nutrition needs to be right up there w/ sanitation. But hey, now they can all look up the specs for flush toilets! Yeah, it's good, but not the best thing that could have happened to the contenent.

    -Earthman

  • Overrated and Underrated are used for when you can't remember if the others add a point or take it away.

    This is known as the "is flamebait a good thing" effect.

    Dave ;)

  • I don't think that the Indian govt. is looking to provide Net connection in every home. Heck, they haven't even provided telephone lines in every home (or even village!). Why talk of telephone - there is never ever any electrcity in these villages! The govt plans to use the Net for it's own administrative purposes (at least initially).
  • More importantly, though, being able to nuke the Pakis is clearly more important that educating and improving the lifestyle of the populace. If you educate them, how will they be dumb enough to go and sit in Kashmir and freeze and be shot at? Geez. Don't you know anything about public policy? Besides, if you give them access to information, you can't keep them from gaining acess to the 50 y/o blue prints for a Nuke. Let's face it, even the US still thrives on the gaps in its education system. Does anyone in the US understand why we still use an electoral college, it's not like that many votes are cast, and we count them all anyway....
    Sorry, that wandered a bit OT

    -Earthman

  • My girlfriend is Indian and she complained a lot about the price of Internet cafes when she last went over there. It wasn't much to her of course, due to the exchange rate, but apparently her family insisted on paying.
  • Just a quick note. Internet is proper noun. It deserves to be treated as so. (Internet not internet)

  • One of the biggest problem in any transmission line/pipe is obtaining the right-of-way (space) for the cable/pipe. After that, the biggest problem is transporting materials to the line head where the work is going on.

    A railways solves both problems neatly. With the right trencher, it should be possible to bury fiber just outside the ballast at greater than 10 miles-per-hour! If your signals system has enough spare power, you can use that for the repeater boxes.

    All-in-all, a very neat solution.

  • C'mon. What do most people do with this powerful learning tool? They pirate MP3s, buy stuff, and download gigabytes of porn.

    You remind me of Minerva ("Veto, baby") Mayflower from Hudson Hawk :-).

    Oddly enough, I don't use the web to pirate MP3's. The stuff I buy on the web is not at my local store (nor, I imagine, is it trucked through India by itinerant peddlers). And I do use it to participate in discussions with people who just don't think things through (present company excepted, of course :).

    Bandits steal copper from the poles in the middle of nowhere, so they have plenty of time to run away. The rails are patrolled regularly, and kiosks will be in businesses, railway stations or private homes, where they're much harder to steal.

    And doctors are more expensive than you seem to think. I'd bet (some number much less than 10,000) doctors would probably cost more than using the Internet to get basic health and contraception information to all the "internet ladies" in India. In a country of more than a billion, 10,000 doctors would be a drop in the bucket... especially if they have to order supplies by mail :-).

  • India is very poor country, however, the vast majority of impoverished people live in the population centers of India. The rural areas, though poor by American standards, do not live a life of generally wretched conditions.

    Speaking with experience in visiting these areas, it is clear that on average the lifestyle of a rural Indian is far higher in terms of quality than an urban Indian.

    The previous suggestions of poor sanitation, nutrition, and electricty are true, but to a far less serious extent. Santitation in the rural areas is superior to that in the cities, and nutrition is also among the best in India because of the high ration of farmers/producers to consumers.

    India has a poor reputation for quality of life, and it is deservered, however, many of these assumptions do not practically extend to the "outlanders".

  • Right; and why would you call it a pilot project, when clearly it's an engineering project ?
  • They already have. Phil Anshultz owner of Santa Fe RR, the former D&RGW RR Union Pacific etc. is the majority share holder of Qwest. The buying of the railroads wasn't for freight. it was to use the railroads right of way for fiber optics.
  • I feel this is a very good idea to use the railways' control system to bring internet to the villages in India. Here, all the people who have posted above are talking about providing basic amenities to the villagers before giving them internet access. But who said Internet access is for individuals? Even if there is one internet connection per village it is more than enough. People dont need the net for checking mail and chatting. People need the net for communicating with the various govt authorities. They need it for getting the latest market prices of goods(foodgrains, vegetables, etc) which they produce, so that they are not duped by cunning middlemen. They need the net for carrying out legal matters (Here in India a district office could be tens of miles away from a village and travelling is a nightmare without public transport) There are many other productive uses which can be exploited.

    Nilesh C.
  • Isn't India going through one of the worst droughts. Shouldn't water access be more important than Internet access
  • Southern Pacific Railroad INterstate Telephone system. The sales end was known as United Telephone, and they would connect directly to companies near railroad tracks, bypassing the local monopoly.

    The rail companies all had their own internal telegraph and telephone systems, since they already had the right-of-way going from town to town. Once they realised they could sell the excess, a whole new industry was born.

    The old SPRINT telephone system was a great learning grounds for some early phreakers. Security against fraud was non-existant, and gateways to the regular phone system were almost untraceable. Not that I would know any of this first-hand *ahem* :-)

    the AC
  • These are the extra control lines, not power lines. They're already transmitting the signals that control and communicate between the switches and stations on the railroad. Oddly, I don't recall reading about a large number of storm-related deaths amongst railroad employees in India, but then, we don't get much news from there.

    They're probably at least as good as telephone lines, and probably better, as a downed phone line doesn't derail a million dollars worth of rolling stock and kill a bunch of passengers ;-).

  • Whatever happened to the idea of using the power grid for Internet access? I know I've read an article sometime in an airline magazine on the subject. Some group in Dallas, TX was supposed to test it.
  • Well, they say 1,07,000; what is the number, really ? I interpret this to mean that along much of the 38K route miles, there are parallel rails. (I.e., 1 route mile with 3 parallel tracks = 3 track miles) If that's what it means, I could easily believe there are 107,000 track miles.
  • Come on, dont tell us, hatred runs so deep in the common Indians and Pakistanis. Its all political hype. And this is used for political gains only.
    Mr A.K. Goel, Dont you know that Pakistani people love to watch Indian movies, Indians love to listen to Pakistani ghazal singers? This is just one example. If I go on, the list is endless.
  • This should at least be a little faster than sneakernet.

  • hi,

    if you lay you a grid of squares 64 units on a side, then the average distance between a point in the plane and the grid is 32/3, a little less than 11. to arrive at this number you have to integrate the distance function over the square, and divide by its area. it's not obvious. (one way to see that your answer of 32 is wrong is to notice that 32 is the _maximal_ distance between a point and the grid. most points are closer.)

    also, to assume that the population is uniformly distributed is really wrong. most everyone will live in clumps, and railroads will run right through those clumps. so the average distance is going to be much smaller than 11.

    aside from that, they clearly don't want to run the connection straight to residences.

    - pal

  • I'm reminded of a book I recently finished called "The sun, the genome, and the internet [fatbrain.com] in which the good Mr. Dyson (remember Dyson Spheres? yea. that guy) extoles the many advances in technology that will shape our near future. One of the more interesting points in the book was the emphysis on social justice (how much impact a piece of technology has on every day life around the globe).

    Picture, if you will, an internet kiosk completly independant from the physical infrastructure now used to access the internet today. The AC outlet on your peecee might be replaced by solar power, the dataline replaced with a satelite link. This is not far removed from the Transmeta webpad [slashdot.org] with a 18" digital dish on top, and a battery pack down below.

    Such a device would have a big social impact around the globe because it could, quite literaly, be droped from the sky and just do what it does for a few hours a day (I know some of you are picturing a sceen from "the gods must be crazy" when the coke bottle hits the native on the head).

    Anyway, the continued focus on low power consumtion can be combined with an emphysis on a focus on "infrastructure indepentant technologies" to provide an affordable killer thin client.

    Now, if we can only get that magical universal translator into the mozilla nightlys. ;)
    ___

  • My experience in rural India is limited, but in the areas I visited I'd have to say that sanitation was a problem. Nutrition seemed OK, the power outages were a minor inconvenience (people just learned to live without for a few hours - wood stoves helped), but there were a lot of open sewers containing human waste.

    I imagine some buried sewage pipes would go a long way to improving the health of the general population.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @04:01PM (#1037353) Journal
    As I recall:

    MCI was the first. It put microwave antennas on buildings and towers, and sold long-distance service. (They're those dishes with the red lightning bolt.) And it sued to break the AT&T monopoly on long distance service.

    Once that monopoly was broken, Sprint was exactly what you described: It started as Southern Pacific Railroad selling unused capacity of their new fiber-along-the-right-of-way as another (the second?) competetive long-distance company. The name is an acronym for the railroad's original networking project - Southern Pacific Railroad Net .

    Not to be outdone, MCI joined the bandwagon and leased fibre rights along another right-of-way. (If I recall correctly MCI made a deal with another railroad, and it was yet another company who cut one with a power company to run fiber under the big power towers.)
  • I like the idea of hauling in Internet via train. I mean, everything's gonna be a few weeks old, but I love the image of piles of Internet being dumped at the feet of willing villagers, who sell it off by the pound.

    Ah, the smell of Internet, fresh from the fields. It takes me back to my youth in India...
  • It's working here as well. Look at companies like Telergy in New Your state. They cut a deal with the power companies to use their right of ways and now are laying 15+ miles of fiber a week with essentially zero impeadance when it comes to right of ways.

    US West is doing the same in their 14 state region and many cable companies are now looking at using the water right of ways to lay thier cable.

    In Virgina where I live, it's common practice now to put up cell relays on high voltage power line towers which are owned by the federal highway comission. Look in the center of the exit ramps near you, I'll bet you see some. It's a much cheaper route to take when you don't have to purchace the land and file the easments or variances. In the US most of our high end fiber lines are also run along railroad right of ways. The avenue between West Texas and Wyoming (including Denver and Colorado Springs) is alsmost 100% along railroad right of ways, right next to I-25. Unfortunately this has some real negative impacts during train derailments and other disasters because the redundancy built into the systems usually have the backup strands running within a few feet of the main. I know, I've put hundreds of miles of fiber in the ground along this route.

  • by tweek ( 18111 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @04:17PM (#1037359) Homepage Journal
    I just got back from India after a 3 week business trip recruiting technical candidates. I met some of the most amazing men and women there. One group that still has my attention is a group of people who are working on a project sponsored by the government to basically build the Indian version of arpanet. 6 major cities connected, then 16 minor cities connected to those major and then 32 outlaying cities connected to the minor ones and so on outward. My only gripe about India during the trip (despite the heat in New Dehli and the traffic in Bangalore) was the poor quality of internet access and extortionate phone charges levied by the government. The hotels I stayed at (Le Merdien) were charged Rs 150 just to get a dialtone by the government. I used my calling card the entire time to dial into the US for ISP access because it was faster, more reliable and cheaper than dialing locally.

    To all the slashdotters in India, I can't wait to come back and see more of the country.

    P.S. For some pictures of the trip if you are interested check out this link [lusis.org].

  • Jeez, I hope that was loaded with sarcasm that I did not detect.

    Indian "dot coms" and the dumb ass press have conned the people into thinking that the 'nets all about money. Well sir, its not. The internet is at its best one of the best means of breaking down barriers in society.

    Think about education when you think about bringing technology to the villages. About two decades ago, your argument could well have been applied to the remote village educational programs which were run using INSAT... well, you know what, TV brought about a huge change in our villages....

    WAIT .. lets talk about the wonders that the Rural exchanges developed by C-DOT brought to our villages. People can actually make calls to anywhere in India from virtually anywhere else. Your argument could well have applied to telephones a couple of years ago.

  • Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station-wagon crammed with CDs, or a 747 full of disquettes!!!

    --
    Here's my mirror [respublica.fr]

  • Do you really need 100% reliable power? Computers work with a power supply that steps down the AC power down to a voltage manageable by batteries.

    UPSes are wasteful in that they step-up voltage from a battery to 100 volts, then the computer's power supply steps it back down to low voltage. Why not design computers à la laptop, that is that have batteries between the transformer and the voltage regulators?

    That would be much cheaper than a run-of-the-mill UPS, and would allow for operation with unreliable power sources.

    Nowadays, everything you use works on low voltage, so it comes with a cumbersome transformer. That include halogens lamps. Why not wire houses with 12 volts, which could easily be supplemented by inline batteries? Big power-hungry appliances would simply get their separate high-voltage feeds, just like water heaters and ranges and clothes dryers and strip-heaters do nowadays.

    And, especially for third-world countries, this would be much cheaper and could even be run by makeshift turbines on little streams.

    --
    Here's my mirror [respublica.fr]

  • by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <pig,hogger&gmail,com> on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @05:13PM (#1037380) Journal
    1) You're running on the spare carrying capacity of a dedicated control system?
    Railroad signalling is not very bandwidth-hungry. Signal and switches operation instructions and acknowledgement of both reception and execution are extremely reduntandly transmitted (you just can't allow 0.0001% of error there, unless you don't mind picking up a 1000 ton pile of scrap metal seasoned with mangled human remains), at a very low rate (in the range of dozens of baud).
    The rest of the bandwidth is used to transmit movement orders and requisitions and to track the movement of rolling stock, all things that classify as mundane data-processing tasks that are certainly as bandwith-hungry as an ICQ session.

    * * *

    By the 1920's, US railroads were heavily "computerized", since the ICC requirements for detailed freight and passenger statistics made them good clients of ye olde Hollerith tabulating machinery companie...
    Their extensive telegraph networks also gave them an early distributed teletypeprinter capability; so, in essence, railroads were at the edge of technological progress...
    Railroad signalling is also an interesting logic development, in that the large "interlocking plants" controlling railroad junctions were nothing less than computers programmed to disallow conflicting train movements.
    It's always interesting to study railroading history: they've been through exactly all the very same problems faced by airlines and UPS and networked companies over 120 years ago, and it is hilarious to see those who ignore history to stupidly repeat it...

    --
    Here's my mirror [respublica.fr]

  • by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <pig,hogger&gmail,com> on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @05:22PM (#1037383) Journal
    The rail companies all had their own internal telegraph and telephone systems, since they already had the right-of-way going from town to town. Once they realised they could sell the excess, a whole new industry was born.
    They still do. And they interconnect their networks toghether, as well to Bell local loops, so you don't have all those silly long-distance restrictions. Better yet, the telephone network is fully accessible trough the locomotive radios, so you can call anywhere in north america for free from locomotive cabs...

    It great to order pizza when you're stuck outside Chicago on a freight train, waiting for traffic to clear... (I've done a few times. Once, in 11 hours, we only moved 5 miles)...

    --
    Here's my mirror [respublica.fr]

  • by 348 ( 124012 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @05:24PM (#1037385) Homepage
    You are correct.

    It was CSX, and just to set the recod straight MCI was originally Microwave Communications Inc..

    This said, I must also add that I was a Sr. Manager with them for about ten years, they used to be great, but when Worldcom came in, the place went to shit. What a horrible marriage. MCIWorldcom has got to be one of the worst places to work, a complete sweatshop, no reward unless your an ass kissing exec.

  • So would it be P/HG=(NP/G=HG*PT), where PT=your pants and HG=Steamy Hot Grits?

    Just curious.

  • I recently moved to Hyderabad, which is the chosen city for many American companies for their Indian software operations (including M$); Hyderabad is touted to be the cybercapital of India. Getting a simple dialup connection with POP3 access to work here took quite some doing. Even professional ISPs here don't understand technology issues.

    The problem is not just a surface level problem of training and competence. In the Vedic age (10,000+ years ago) they had a flourishing civilization going (what the heck, they invented the zero, that's half the binary alphabet) when Europe and America had only nomadic tribes. Now civilization is passing through a phase when the tables are turned. It was the British Raj who really introduced modern technology to India. Now with the advent of computers and the internet, India has actually skipped several stages of development, jumping directly from the 19th to the 21st centuries. Technology did not get a chance to evolve here. We live entirely on imported technology. The main strength India in the IT industry has is labour; we can provide cheap labour to labour-starved western economies.

    Infrastructure is definitely not our strong point. As the story says, most rural areas in India have severe power problems. And given the level of technical skills even in our cybercapital Hyderabad, I doubt if any railroad kiosk will ever be able to boot even Windows.

  • Well, here's a UPS-on-a-card [guardian-ups.com] which would accomplish what you suggest.

    Even better, a Netwinder [rebel.com] runs straight from 12V, so you can just use a battery across its power supply for a UPS.

    As for wiring a house with 12V, the problem is that a lower voltage implies a higher current, for the same amount of power. A 60W light bulb is only 0,5A at 120V but 5A at 12V. You either loose a lot of energy in your wiring, or have to use large-diameter, heavy and expensive wiring.

  • by Rsriram ( 51832 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @06:30PM (#1037400)
    1. To cut down costs and more importantly speed of communication with the rest of the world especially other villages and cities. The costs of communicating through long distance calls is very high and the Internet can cut that costs by a tenth. When you realise that people in the villages do not have CASH to spend on communication they will welcome the Internet. However just because they do not have cash does not mean they are necessarily dirt poor. They dont need a A.C/fan to keep themselves cool. They dont need to drink coke. The food is very simple and easily available. They take care of their own most of the times unlike city folk who dont care for the people around them.

    2. They can access Govt information which is one of the major costs since htey have to travel to the nearest city/town to get that. The govt in some states is also ensuring that all records and process information is available on the net for the convenience of the people.

    3. They may access the net for education. While this may not be widely used, this is a possibility.

    4. Medical help and information. The Primary Health centres in villages which are staffed by nurses can get help from doctors across the world and from databases. Medical Information can be maintained thru the net at a central location for help and analysis.

    5. Information collection. One of the problems with India is the lack of reliable information about various things. How many acres under Rice, Wheat and SUgar Cane. What is the expected yeild. WHile this may seem worthless information to geeks, this helps the govt plan a lot of things such as how much should the waterflow thru a dam should be. HOw much electricity is needed, which will really help a country.

    I should know becos I come from an Indian village.
  • How difficult is it to direct a pizza delivery guy to the cab of a freight train in the Chicago yards?

    I was really young when I first heard of the battles between Sprint and Ma Bell. By the time the justice department started to look at the monopoly status of ol' Ma, they started to interconnect to competing long haul carriers. A few years after you could connect from a Bell to Sprint, MCI was created.

    Interconnect, that's where the money is!

    the AC
    are we off topic yet?
  • by Russ Nelson ( 33911 ) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @06:32PM (#1037402) Homepage
    The first time Williams ran fiber, they used a decomissioned gas pipeline. Only later did they figure out that fiber was safer from backhoes when near *working* gas pipelines.

    All around the gas pipeline
    The backhoe dug a trench.
    The trench got too close to the fiber.
    Pop goes the backhoe.
    -russ
  • Indians have an NIH complex. They'd do a lot better to just buy in foreign technology, except that they have to pay a 45% tariff. Their own government does to them in peacetime what an enemy would like to do in wartime (blockade them).
    -russ
  • I've done a fair amount of traveling in India, though mostly in Urban/semi rural areas, but there's a fair amount of computer interest even outside the largest cities. On numerous road journeys in southern and south western India, every town (not as small as villages) had several satellite dishes, with cables stringing via electrical wire, bringing Cable TV to the villagers. In some of the larger towns, there were Internet access centers, and computer training classes.

    When the state monopoly ISP, VSNL, was forced to allow other companies to hook up for access, ~ a year or so ago, cable modem internet services started springing up, first in the wealthiest areas of the largest cities, but spreading.

    I recently found out that the district center of my native district has 12 cybercafes, with a population of under 100,000

    All of these developments have only served to help out the richest Indians so far.

    However, things are changing, and frankly improved communications via the net can impact the lives of even the poorest Indian villagers, not withstanding the protestations of Anonymous Cowards who think that Indians should improve their living standards by the same plodding methods that other countries did.

    Studies that I've read have shown that the existence of just one phone in a village was enough to _double_ its average income. Why? Because, the increased communication allowed villagers, most of whom in India are farmers, to get better information about wholesale prices and get better deals from middlemen.

    With one Internet connection to a village (imagine 1 or 2 486's running Linux, maybe hooked up with a bunch of VT100's running as serial consoles), villagers would be able to email bureaucrats and politicians, and get information on everything ranging from weather forecasts, to current crop prices, to even advice on animal husbandry.

    Some objections that can (and have) been raised are costs, and also linguistic barriers. Given that an i-opener or cheap network computer has an approximate cost of $300 to make, it would cost a village of 500 people about 60 cents per person to purchase a computer, about half a day's wages for an average Indian.

    Another objection raised is one of language and literacy. About 60% of Indians are literate, but people with at least a high school education can easily hired to run a place and help people whose literacy skills are weak. Also, people with a high school education are likely to have had a few years of English. A small fee can be placed for using the "cybercafe", the proceeds of which could be used to pay the operator and also pay for the purchase costs of the machine. This scheme is already being done in some areas of India.

    With regards to the language issues, websites are starting to spring up in many Indian languages and scripts, making this less of a problem in the future.

    Though it may seem that building better roads and a greater supply of electricity would be a better use of the money, helping them gain knowledge will help them increase their income several fold, which will in the long run help them increase their living standards by much more than institutional wisdom holds is possible....

    Arun
  • Now I don't feel like the oldest fart on /. :-)

    You've got the SPCC bit right, but I thought United Telco, Centel, and dozens of others were the local interconnect companies who re-sold the capacity to large companies, and ensured connections to the local Bell and GTE plants. But my memory fails me in my old age :-)

    SPCC was selling telephone service over buried copper trunks starting in the 1930s, from San Francisco to New Orleans and many other areas in the south. They added microwave capacity in the 60s. In the 80s they started to replace the copper with fibre.

    I once saw a map of independent telcos in the US, and the ones that survived the longest and had the best connections were all along the SP track routes, and could negotiate long distance access because there was competition. The independents locked into an area with only Ma Bell to connect to were all eventually driven out of business by the abusive monopoly powers of Ma. Its what started the DoJ's anti-trust case which led to the breakup of Ma Bell. One can only hope the DoJ does better with M$ :-)

    the AC
  • I recently heard Ashok Jhunjhunwala give a presentation on this and other technologies his team is developing in India. He is a leader of the group running the Internet on railway signalling cables, and an engineering professor at one of the Indian Institutes of Technology (the Indian equivalents of MIT that have trained so many of the founders of Silicon Valley start-ups). His group is very sophistocated and focussed on developing a range of exciting technologies that make lower cost Internet access possible in India.

    Low cost telephone and Internet connection technologies (with somewhat lower performance) are not being developed by U.S. firms because consumers and businesses will pay for more expensive higher quality connections, but essential for bringing Internet to Indian users. Using the railway signals network is just one of range of solutions the group is developing including microwave to local cable systems for Internet and telephony, and manufacturing their own network and switching equipment, which is being used commercially in several countries besides India.

    A number of posters have questioned why India needs the internet before they have access to running water, sewage, abundant food, etc. The general reason is that India will not have any of these things without economic development that allows them reach higher income levels than are possible in a predominantly agricultural economy. Communications, electricity, etc. are necessary for this transformation, both to bring about higher productivity agriculture and to expand into higher productivity sectors. As I recall, IT now accounts for almost half of India's total exports from nothing ten years ago!

    Internet makes sense even in a country largely made up of poor farmers with high illiteracy if it can be made affordable. Email and Internet is much lower cost than voice telephony and some of the people in almost any village are literate. To an area with no telephone access, the Internet brings the whole world's ideas and information to them for the first time.

    Getting market information in distant cities is essential to allow poor farmers to bargain for competitive prices for their products. The Grameen Bank finds that its rural cell telephone centers in Bangladesh are used more intensively by the landless than higher income people because they are making calls to find employment.

    There are plenty (hundreds of millions) of rural Indians who are just as clever as we are, and this kind of internet access could eventually allow them to earn the kind of incomes that we do, rather than just be clever subsistence farmers.

  • IIRC, railways are often used as routes for fibre optic cabling, (at least here in England they are), probably because there is little difficulty in securing planning permission and having only one authority (Railtrack) to deal with when it comes to digging holes and or layoing out cabling on the surface.

    I would have thought it would be more natural for India to route their signalling traffic through some nice spiffy fibre optic cable which they just lay along the track routes. Presto - one third world country joins the first world.

    OK I know this costs money, but it's got to cost less than their ongoing skirmish with Pakistan....

  • Over here in Sweden, Banverket [banverket.se] (the company responsible for the railways) upgraded their signal systems a few years ago. The signaling is now done over fibers. And, since they were replacing cables anyway, they put in some spare capacity (well, a lot of spare capacity). This has led to that Banverket is now the single biggest backbone provider in Sweden, apart from Telia [telia.com], the phone company.

    However, over the last half-year or so, everyone and their mother seems eager to put their own fibers into the ground, so this may change in the future. But right now, I think I can say that almost all of the network providers in Sweden are renting fibers from the railway company for long-distance connectivity.

  • In Britain before telecoms deregulation, the second largest telephone network was owned by British Rail. This was spun off into Racal Telecom, which was recently bought by 'Global Crossing' (whose web site is so poor I won't even link to it).

    Similarly Energis [energis.co.uk] is a company which sends data traffic over the National Grid power cables.

  • A few technical details that are not mentioned in the article : the infrastructure will be mostly copper with DSL equipment at the ends. Technology will be brought by Dr. Jhunjhunwala's company (Tenet) and Satyam may be the partner ISP. If successful, the concept may be rapidly extended to other sections of the Vijaywada - Guntur line.
    My experience about India is a study I conducted during a few weeks there back in February. I conducted face to face interviews with the CEO and top execs from MTNL in Delhi, with execs from Tata Teleservices in Hyderabad, and also with various actors of the Indian telecommunications industry.
    I found that India is full of incredibly ingenious people that learn faster than you imagine (in the technical domain, marketing is another story entirely...) and will kick the butt of those who don't evolve as fast, but India is also full of experts in the art of crafting propaganda in the form of thundering press releases that will make Microsoft's own look like reasonable technical information.
    When Andra Pradesh's chief minister's IT advisor assured me that videoconference facilities were available in selected post offices, I was excited, but when I got there to check it out, all I found after half an hour wandering from one clueless employee to the other was a PC with a 33 kbit/s modem : there had been two customers in six months and the employee could even remember the date the last one came ! I suggested that videoconference over a plain PC with a modem was stretching it a bit, and they told me that it was adequate, and even proposed to demo it, but at this very moment the lights went out (dry season came early and electricity is scarce when the dams are empty) and I decided I had seen enough. Just an example...
    The reason lies in the political stakes that lie in the technological development of the country : half of India's 600000 villages still do not have phone and bringing basic information services there is a national priority. But instead of being pragmatic, politicians promise optical fiber every village, virtual universities for the masses and other grandiose expressions of demagogy, and they count on the private sector to implement their vision. the In return, private sector companies that collaborate in raising the hype get a better attitude from the administration.
    A while ago, a story ran on Slashdot mentioning that Worldtel aimed at deploying hundreds of Internet cafes in Tamil Nadu. I read that the company even mentioned extending the project into Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. The facts are they did nothing like that and that all that remains is a shady national backbone project like what everyone else in India is planning. My opinion is that this was a gross ploy to get subsidies from a government honestly eager to foster the development of anything that can get the information age to the masses. This is a good example of things that happen on a regular basis in India.
    But the strategy followed by the government is schizophrenic : the heavy regulation that burdens the telecommunications industry is intended to let incumbent take advantage of high tariffs to fund the development of basic telephony infrastructure in rural India. This is a good thing. Promoting new innovative projects from the private sector is also a good thing. But both are totally incompatible with each other and produce an incoherent quagmire : maintaining the tariff's stability is nonsense in the context of the structural changes that the industry is to go through while riding the technological wave; it is merely feet dragging from heavily lobbying incumbents reluctant to change.
    To conclude on a positive note, I must say that I believe that this particular project is real and may be successful because it is reasonable in scope. Just beware of Indian hype : it is at least as bad as what you've got at home !

  • ...I get the impression that a barbed-wire fence isn't going to transmit data at optimal speeds.
  • Two railroads completed the Transcontinental Railroad: The Union Pacific [up.com] (East Coast to Utah) and the Central Pacific (West Coast to Utah).

    The Central Pacific evolved/merged into the Southern Pacific. Interestingly as a side-note, one of the presidents of the SP was Leland Stanford, who founded a small school in California by the same name.

    The SP had quite a few different divisions, including shipping, communications, et cetera.

    Which finally brought us to the...

    Southern Pacific Railroad Internal Network Telecommunications

    ...one of the biggest three telcos in the entire world.


    aka SPRINT. [mit.edu]
  • How difficult is it to direct a pizza delivery guy to the cab of a freight train in the Chicago yards? You just call a pizzeria within earshot of the crossing you're stuck at, and to confirm it, you say, "go outside, and in thirty seconds, I'm gonna blow my whistle three short times" (nowhere in regulations you do have to blow it three short times)...

    And if you DO have business there, railroad cops are amongst the nicest people around. They're so bored that they're happy to see new people! Social engineering galore!!!

    --
    Here's my mirror [respublica.fr]

  • The SP had quite a few different divisions, including shipping, communications, et cetera.

    Which finally brought us to the...
    Southern Pacific Railroad Internal Network Telecommunications
    ...one of the biggest three telcos in the entire world.
    And let's not forget about the goode ole Western Union [westernunion.com]...

    --
    Here's my mirror [respublica.fr]

  • Just wait till someone starts doing wiretaps to packet sniff the railroad.

    'Is that guy downloading porn?'
    'No, that's just the 405 on it's way to New Delhi.'

    But, what can you expect from a country that left nuclear weapon computers available on the internet...

    --
    Gonzo Granzeau

  • >What do people in the villages need with the Internet anyway? They're currently working on a model where there's one woman who's the "phone lady" and who acts as the primary link to other villages.

    Actually, it turns out that the internet is an excellent way to replace the "phone lady". Often poor families have the primary breadwinner working far out of town, even out of the country entirely. E-mail even better than the telephone for communicating important news and financial arrangements, without requiring perfect timing at both ends, and much faster than postal mail.

    >Despite what pundits claim, you can't really get much of an education from the Web alone (yet).

    India has a big chicken-and-egg problem: how to get from a prehistorical agricultural economy to the information age. They never had a strong industrial base, so there isn't anything to build a middle class off of or to sell to other nations. The solution India is working on is jump-start to a full information economy, more or less, by turning as many of its children as it can into engineers and computer scientists. Not surprisingly, many of these people end up working in or at least for companies in the US.

    >If I were a person in a rural Indian village, I'd be more interested in getting me some of that modern plumbing and health care before I wanted to go read Slashdot. It's basic Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs stuff.

    It's hard to judge from this article, but I'd say that some of those needs ARE taken care of. These are rural villages, and many of them are dirt poor by Western standards, but that doesn't mean that India hasn't already made great strides in meeting that "hierarchy of needs" -- they really have. Water, power, transportation, are already there. Even basic literacy has reached record levels. Now they're moving to the next phase, but they don't have time to wait for people to get factory jobs, join the middle class, buy ranch houses, etc.
    ----
  • It is not that nuking the Pakistanis is more important to us, but nukes here are a question of survival. Pakistan is fighting a proxy war in Kashmir (with plenty of help earlier from the CIA and the US govt.). We have two hostile nuclear powers to contend with (Pakistan and China).

    From the past thousand years, India has been attacked whenever it was militarily weak. Our prosperity has been only when the country was militarily strong.

    And the education problem is not what you say, its because otherwise our politicians will never be voted to power otherwise :(.

    And, it appears as if being a nuclear power has its benefits, we get listened to a bit more at the international level :)
  • Arcor here in Germany, one of the major Telcos, is a cooperation of Mannesmann (a major German industrial conglomerate) and Deutsche Bahn (= German Rail).

    Deutsche Bahn gives Mannesmann access to their excessive fiber network backbone that goes along the tracks of all major German rail connections.

    As you Americans may not be aware of, here in Europe, the railway system is as closely knit as the American Greyhound bus system - there's a railway connection to almost every town.

    Thanks to this cooperation, Arcor instantly had a major network backbone between all the major German cities.

    ------------------
  • Well basically there's no evidence for it. every study that has attempted to validate it has failed miserably. THAT invalidates the model
  • In all the comments about using the Indian Railway's wiring to setup Internet connection, that's actually a GREAT idea because the wiring infrastructure is already in place to do it.

    In fact, one of the things that made the railroads in the USA a LOT of money during the 1970's and 1980's was making their right-of-way property available to lay down fiber-optic telecommunications cables. Southern Pacific did this on all their right of way locations using their SPRINT operation, and in fact if you have a chance to follow the SP (now UP) tracks in California you'll see occasional warning signs indicating buried communications cables.

    I think what the Indian Railways ought to do is to use the right-of-way property on their rail lines to lay down high-speed fiber-optic lines all over India. That way, there can be a major boost in telephone, television, and high-speed Internet access capability all over India.

"There are some good people in it, but the orchestra as a whole is equivalent to a gang bent on destruction." -- John Cage, composer

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