BharatNet project: Of the 1 lakh gram panchayats that were provided optic fibre cable (OFC) two years ago, only 22,333 have active broadband connectivity. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has set up an internal target of working on the rest of the gram panchayats in the first phase of BharatNet project in the next three months, the Indian Express reported. The plan was originally set to go by March 2015 but was extended till March 2017. According to Bharat Broadband Network Ltd, about 1,00,076 gram panchayats were connected with the OFC but only 22 per cent of them were connected through the Gigabit Passive Optical Network for a broadband connection. A three-month timeline was given to 77,667 gram panchayats for providing broadband but only 16,916 of them received it between March 15, 2016 to July 5, 2017. The broadband providers Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited laid the connection in 86,304 gram panchayats, RailTel 6,415, and Power Grid Corporation of India in 7,357 villages out of the total, according to the report.
All gram panchayats in certain areas like districts of Kerala, Puducherry, Bengaluru Urban, Mandya, Hassan, Chamraj Nagar in Karnataka, Kamrup Metro in Assam, Unokoti in Tripura, Vishnupur in Manipur, and Chandigarh have been provided connectivity, the official said. A senior government official said that government would find it difficult to lay out broadband connections in remote areas of the country lest they adopt the public-private partnership (PPP) model. “Wherever the infrastructure has been laid down, it should be bid out to operators to find customers, maintain, collect payments, and then give a fixed amount to the government. It is not the government’s job to do marketing, it should be done by these service providers,” the official told the Indian Express.
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He added that currently the infrastructure is made by one party and it is maintained by another, which is then sold by the government. The buyer will ask for a service-level agreement which, if not fulfilled, will be passed on to the party maintaining it. The Phase II of the BharatNet project would connect 1,50,000 gram panchayats through OFC, aerial OFC, radio, satellite media by March 2019. The large-scale project involves states, public sector companies and the private sector, according to the report.