Bharatnet project: 1.5 Lakh Panchayats to be provided with Broadband connections

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With an aim to provide high-speed broadband in all panchayats by March 2019, Department of Telecom is organizing a National Conference with the State Governments and Service Providers on Today.

Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan further asked state government to send list of unconnected villages in their jurisdiction so that all of them can be connected by 2020.

"Most of the TSPs had shown interest with different revenue models and they are doing things in innovative ways", Sinha told reporters here, adding that the tariff rates for the Teecom Service Providers have also been brought down by 75 per cent.

The TSPs will be providing last-mile connectivity in villages (fibre to home) after taking the broadband fibre from BharatNet at the Global Positioning System. He expressed satisfaction that the Prime Minister's vision of Digital India is on the right track and Bharat Net is an integral part of that dream.

Modi's government renamed it to BharatNet and rushed its roll-out.

For those unaware, the government has invested close to Rs 11,200 crore in phase one of BharatNet of connecting 1.5 lakh gram panchayats and is slated to be complete by the end of this year.

The Telecom Ministry has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with seven states - Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Jharkhand.

Sundararajan said the total project cost of BharatNet was around Rs 45,000 crore, of which Rs11,200 crore have been used for the first phase. To expedite the rollout of the second phase, the central government will also be providing partial funding to the local governments of these states.

According to government estimation, the second or final phase of BharatNet will double the existing optical fibre footprint in the country.

Sundararajan said there are around 38,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in the country now.

The project is a Centre-State collaborative project, with the States contributing free Rights of Way for establishing the Optical Fibre Network. Some of the Wi-fi hotspots may not be commercially viable initially.

The government will also give Rs3,600 crore in financial support to telecom service operators for rolling out Wi-Fi in villages. So, we will provide viability gap funding of around $550 million (around Rs 3600 crore) to telecom operators.

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