The Department of Telecom has advanced the deadline to December-end for providing broadband connectivity to all village panchayats under the BharatNet programme, a senior official said. The government has set the target to complete the network rollout across 2.5 lakh gram panchayats by March 2019 after deferring the deadline several times for the programme launched way back in 2011. “The DoT is hopeful of completing the rollout of BharatNet project by December. Internally, everything is being discussed and handled to meet the December timeline,” a senior DoT officer told PTI.
Another official said that the target was advanced as the government wants to highlight availability of broadband connectivity and digital services at panchayat level when it gets into election mode next year. The government has laid optical fibre in more than 1 lakh village panchayats and has allocated funds of around Rs 31,000 crore to state governments and public sector firms to rollout high speed broadband network in remaining 1.5 lakh panchayats.
BharatNet, started as National Optical Fibre Network in October 2011, was to be completed by the end of 2013 initially but the deadline was deferred to September 2015 under the Congress-led UPA 2 regime. Under the NDA regime, the deadline was set at December 2016 but was later deferred to March 2019. BharatNet is crucial to meet government’s proposed target of providing broadband access to all with minimum 50 megabit per second speed by 2022.
Under the proposed policy, ‘National Digital Communications Policy 2018’, the government aims to enable fixed line broadband access to 50 per cent of households and start landline portability services. The policy suggests providing universal broadband coverage at 50 mbps to every citizen and providing 1 gbps (gigabit per second) connectivity to all gram panchayats of India by 2020 and 10 gbps by 2022.