NEW DELHI: The telecom department expects to connect 20,000 villages across the country through optic fibre by March-end under a national broadband network plan. Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad will inaugurate the project commercially in Kerala on Monday.
Kerala is scheduled to become digitally connected by March-end and other southern states of Karnataka and Seemandhra are likely to follow next. “The work is progressing fast even among the western states of Gujarat and Maharashtra,” Prasad told reporters on Friday.
The government had advanced the deadline of digitally connecting the entire country through optic fibre under the National Optic Fibre Network (NOFN) project to December 2016. According to the initial timeline, the government had to connect 50,000 of the total 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats by March end, however, the progress has been very slow till date.
“The Centre and the states need to work together on this project,” Prasad said. According to senior DoT officials, most issues plaguing the project have been settled, including rights of way. “State governments realise that they are going to be the biggest beneficiaries of this nationwide project and logistical issues have more or less been resolved,” the minister said.
NOFN is the backbone of the government’s Rs 1.13 lakh-crore Digital India project under which the Centre hopes to deliver social and economic services through broadband. Once implemented, NOFN is expected to provide 100 mbps (megabit per second) bandwidth to each Gram Panchayat to facilitate broadband services.
The government has earmarked around Rs 20,000 crore for the project but sources say the cost has already escalated to close to Rs 30,000 crore. Prasad has already written to the transport minister, Nitin Gadkari, requesting that the government should ensure provision for laying optic fibre along new highways constructed.
Sources said the telecom department would soon write to all the chief ministers requesting them to make provision for optic fibre for all homes on lines of other utility services, sewage pipes, drainage systems and water supply.