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Housing societies chasing MTNL for rent of terrace towers

MUMBAI: At a time when technology is being touted as the bedrock of life in lockdown, the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd's (MTNL) existential struggles are paralysing home internet signals in and around the city.

According to sources, poor network and weak home WiFi related to MTNL routers are a result of scores of housing societies snapping power to the service provider's Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) on their terraces for non-payment of rent. Many of them are also urging MTNL to shift their infrastructure.

Sources said around 350 housing societies - including Saki Vihar in Andheri, Rabodi, Kalva and Naupada areas in Thane - have been affected.

A senior MTNL Mumbai official said the Centre has made a provision in the 2020-21 Budget to help MTNL and the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd(BSNL) tide over their financial troubles but the country was engulfed by the Covid-19 pandemic before the funds could be disbursed. He said the government is using all possible financial pools to fight against the health emergency.

"Once we get out of this situation, we expect to receive help from the Centre and pay our creditors, including housing societies where we have our towers," he said. MTNL's executive director for Mumbai circle Shiv Shankar didn't responded to phone calls and text message sent to him.

Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant, who also leads the MTNL trade union, said he is aware of the problem but many of the MTNL employees who had opted for the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) haven't been paid as well. The non-payment of rents can be looked into only after lockdown guidelines are relaxed, he said.

In the first week of April, MTNL chairman and managing director Sunil Kumar had said that the state-owned telecom firm is looking to resolve debt issues through asset monetisation. He said the first tranche of ex-gratia payment of around Rs 804 crore to all VRS employees has been paid.

Meanwhile, citizens with MTNL connections continue to suffer weak signals due to the unresolved issue of non-payment of rent to housing societies where the DTS towers are located. Brahmand housing society in Thane recently snapped power to an MTNL tower for dues pending since over a year.

A resident of the society,Dr Suyog Marathesaid he himself has been using MTNL service for the past 19 years. "Non-payment of rent by MTNL is a recurring problem and has affected the signal in the area," said Dr Marathe, adding that he requested his housing committee members to be patient and restart the BTS but only if MTNL pays 75 per cent of its dues. "The committee also expects a written commitment about regular payment of rent. MTNL also needs to undertake maintenance activity at our site," said Dr Marathe. Sources said more than 50 per cent of Mumbai's suburbs have been complaining for years about poor quality of MTNL service. As a result, thousands of customers have switched to private operators.


May 01, 2020

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