In news- The Union Cabinet recently approved a revised implementation strategy for the BharatNet project by opting for public-private partnership mode in 16 states.
- The revised implementation strategy is for 3,60,000 villages at a total cost of Rs 29,430 crore. Of this, the government will provide Rs 19,041 crore as viability gap funding.
- Now BharatNet will extend up to all inhabited villages beyond the gram panchayats (GPs) in the said states.
- The revised strategy includes creation, upgradation, operation, maintenance and utilisation of BharatNet by the concessionaire who will be selected by a competitive international bidding process.
- Till date, 1.56 lakh out of the 2.5 lakh village panchayats have been connected with broadband.
- The Cabinet also accorded approval for extending BharatNet to cover all inhabited villages in the remaining states and union territories.
- The department of telecommunication will separately work out the modalities for the remaining states and UTs.
- The selected concessionaire, private sector partner is expected to provide reliable, high speed broadband services as per the predefined services level agreement (SLA).
- The states to be covered under the revised plan are Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
About Bharat Net Project –
- Bharat Net seeks to connect all of India’s households, particularly in rural areas, through broadband by 2017, forming the backbone of the government’s ambitious Digital India programme.
- Aim is to connect all the gram panchayats of the country through optic fibre for providing broadband services.
- It is the world’s largest rural broadband connectivity programme using Optical fibre.
- Earlier National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) failed due to slow implementation.
- NOFN is now rebranded as Bharat Net.
- At present, a special purpose vehicle, Bharat Broadband Network Ltd (BBNL), under the telecom ministry is handling the roll out of optical fibre network.
- The project is being executed by BSNL, Railtel and Power Grid.
- The project is being funded by the Universal service Obligation Fund (USOF).
- The three-phase implementation under the BharatNet project is:
- Under the first phase, one lakh gram panchayats would be provided connectivity by laying underground optic fibre cable (OFC) lines by March 2017.
- Under the second phase, connectivity will be provided to all 2,50,500 gram panchayats in the country by December 2018.
- Under the third phase from 2018 to 2023, state-of-the-art, future-proof networks, including fiber between districts and blocks would be created.
Universal Service Obligation Fund
- It was established in 2002.
- It provides subsidies to ensure telegraph services are provided to everyone across India, especially in the rural and remote areas.
- It is headed by the USOF Administrator who reports to the Secretary, Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
- Funds come from the Universal Service Levy (USL) of 5% charged from all the telecom operators on their Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) which are then deposited into the Consolidated Fund of India, and require prior parliamentary approval to be dispatched.
- The USOF works through a bidding process, where funds are given to the enterprise quoting the lowest bid.
- Funds for BharatNet are provided from the universal service obligation fund where around Rs 55,000 crore is kept for the project.
- Telecom operators contribute 5% of their adjusted gross revenue to the USO fund.