IN simple words, the right of way (ROW) is the legal permission required for the construction, conservation, expansion and protection of a piece of land or a commuting route. In other words, when an organisation, may it be a government or private entity, intends to build or improve the infrastructure of a city, district, or even a country, ROW is needed before any such work is initiated.

When it comes to Pakistan, there are a lot of challenges being faced in this regard by companies. Once the government-led ROW policies are implemented, it will create ample opportunities, particularly for the telecom sector. The allowance or permission of ROW is an issue mainly because it involves laborious procedures, processes, permits, among other activities, and a number of government departments.

It includes budget authorisation, property registration, investigation, identification and location of possible owners, as well as reasonable negotiations that make things almost impossible to manage for the stakeholders. Another obstacle related to ROW which the government often faces is the issue of liberation in areas with environmental or archaeological considerations. Taking into consideration all these factors, the whole process is time-consuming and tedious. However, with a proper ROW solution, the cost of doing business for both public and private companies will be considerably minimised.

Currently, in Pakistan, there is a great debate brewing about the ROW issue when it comes to building a nationwide infrastructure of fibre optic cables. The internet is a basic need for everyone and without proper infrastructure in place, its availability is difficult.

The government has already devised a comprehensive ROW policy that will become a key enabler for expediting the deployment of underground (optical fibre) and over-ground (mobile towers) infrastructure. The ideal scenario will be access to seamless internet with the highest ever download speeds and virtually zero downtime for the services. Facilities, like online education, medical procedures being done remotely, online shopping, real-time business and communication, are directly connected with internet access.

Resolving issues related to ROW will revitalise the national economy and enable social inclusion in Pakistan.

Zain Malik
Rawalpindi

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2021

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