Aiming to connect 1.5 lakh gram panchayats through high-speed broadband, under the second phase of the Bharat Net project, telecom minister Manoj Sinha on Monday pitched for penalising those who delay the project work. Sinha announced that the government has completed the first phase of Bharat Net by connecting over one lakh Gram Panchayats (GPs) with high-speed optical fibre network within the declared deadline of December 31, which will benefit more than 200 million rural Indians. As on December 31, 2017, around 2.55 lakh km of optical fibre had been laid covering 1.09 lakh GPs, of which 1.01 lakh panchayats have been made service-ready. Under Bharat Net, the government intends to connect 2.5 lakh GPs with high-speed broadband services by March 2019. Exhorting officials to connect 1.5 lakh GPs by December 2018 against the project deadline of March 2019, the minister asked department of telecom (DoT) to include as well as enforce the clause of financial incentive for the speedy execution of Phase 2. “While there should be some incentive for those who complete the project work before the deadline, there should also be a penalty for those who delay it,” he added.
Telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan said the project has given a boost to ‘Make in India’ as the key highlight of the project is that telecom equipment deployed in it has been fully designed, developed and manufactured in India. She informed that the project has also achieved a global record of laying of 800 kms of optical fibre per day.
Emphasising that the Bharat Net infrastructure is likely to catalyse digital delivery of services for the rural poor — health, education, livelihood, skills, agriculture and e-commerce—, the government has revised the tariffs at one-fourth the commercial rate so as to attract more telecom operators to use the infrastructure to provide high-speed broadband services in the rural areas through Wi-Fi, FTTH, and for developing utilisation models by TSPs and Common Service Centres (CSC).
She said that telecom operators have inked agreements for leasing Bharat Net infrastructure to provide internet connectivity of up to 100 Mbps in around 70,000 panchayats.