In the recent data surge and the growing demand for data, the government has also played a big role. One of the major and audacious projects to connect the villages and the rural areas by the government has been BharatNet. Now in a new development in this regard, the Union minister of electronics and Information Technology has said that the common service centres in the concerned areas will provide internet to the individuals and institutions through BharatNet till the end of the current fiscal year. As per the new ETTelecom report, through BharatNet, people would be able to enjoy free internet until March 2020.
BharatNet Services to Connect Institutions
While inaugurating the digital village Gurawara, in Rewari, Prasad, remarked, "We have already connected 1.3 lakh gram panchayats through Bharatnet...Our target is to take this to 2.5 lakh Panchayats. To promote utilisation of Bharatnet services we will provide WiFi free in all villages connected through Bharat net till March 2020.”
It is worth noting that the responsibility of handling the last mile connectivity lies with Common Service Centres of BharatNet with a network of 3,60,000 centres. BharatNet has a deployment in 1,20,000 Panchayats. BharatNet is the nationwide fibre network which has been set up to extend fibre connectivity to over 1 lakh panchayats. However, merely extending the fibre network to these panchayats is not the entire solution. There is also the issue of last-mile connectivity so that the users can be connected to the internet and they can make use of it. In these cases, the CSCs would be responsible for handling the last mile connectivity, and these will be responsible for connecting the schools and other institutions with the fibre network. These CSCs would also help the public in connecting to the internet with Wi-Fi or wired fibre connection.
CSCs to Benefit Once Free Services Stop
However, last-mile connectivity is not the only thing that CSCs would do for the Village Panchayats. As per the minister, the CSCs would also take responsibility for providing banking services as well. These CSCs have already partnered up with banks like ICICI, Axis Bank and HDFC Bank for the important banking services like account opening, loan disbursal and withdrawals and more.
Dinesh Tyagi, CEO of CSC SPV remarked that the centre has issued a mandate which says that five institutions should be connected to the BharatNet fibre network, for which partial cost would be borne by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). After the period for providing free internet ends in March 2020, the CSCs would be able to generate good revenue from the provision of internet services, said Tyagi. As per the CEO, although mobile network is the leader when it comes to pushing internet services in India, there is still a demand for wired broadband services in the far-flung areas where the telecom operators have yet not penetrated the market.
Digital Villages to Bring More Services to Citizens
Tyagi remarked on this, “Even if the CSCs sell 1,00,000 coupons for RS. 200 on a monthly basis, it will be huge for us.” The CEO hopes that the programme would then make it easier for them to launch other internet-based services like Education under the Digital Village programme and other things like telemedicine. With the audacious target of having 1,00,000 digital villages in the country, currently, India has 700 digital villages. The BharatNet programme is expected to bolster the growth of these digital villages by providing them with high-speed fibre connectivity.