A 20k Crore broadband plan
Panchayats across the country may soon be connected through a Rs 20,000-crore optical fibre network, as the government works towards achieving its target for broadband penetration. The Telecom Commission cleared the project, but it will have to be approved by the Union Cabinet. The commission has proposed the project to provide broadband connectivity to all villages in the next three years. Telecom minister Kapil Sibal said the Universal Services Obligation Fund, or USOF, would finance the national optical fibre network, or NOFN. All mobile phone companies contribute 5% of their annual revenues towards USOF, which is used to support rural telephony. “The Telecom Commission has approved the project that will be funded through the Universal Service Obligation (USO) Fund. We will take the proposal to the Cabinet soon,” Sibal said. State-owned telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam has been asked to work towards forming a special purpose vehicle for building the network, which will be owned jointly by the government and USOF, Sibal said. Other institutions such as RailTel may also be roped in at a later stage. “If necessary, at a later stage, we will involve the private sector also to ensure that the project is completed within the stipulated period of three years,” Sibal said, adding this would help bring in e-education, e-medicine and e-governance. Creating this network will help the government achieve its target of broadband penetration, which is much less than the mobile phone penetration.