The Department of Telecom (DoT) advanced the deadline to December-end for delivering broadband connectivity to all village panchayats under its BharatNet programme, a senior official told PTI. Under India’s broadband project - BharatNet - the government had earlier set deadline for optical fibre rollout across 250,000 gram panchayats by March 2019, but now it hopes to achieve this by the end of the year. “The DoT is hopeful of completing the rollout of the BharatNet project by December. Internally, everything is being discussed and handled to meet the December timeline,” a senior DoT officer told PTI.
Another official familiar with the matter revealed the target date was advanced by the government in order to highlight the availability of broadband connectivity and digital services at panchayat level ahead of the election next year.
The Central government has already laid optical fibre in more than 1 lakh village panchayats. They also have allocated funds of around Rs 31,000 crore to state governments and public firms for the rollout of high-speed broadband network in remaining 1.5 lakh panchayats.
The move is aimed at bridging the rural internet connectivity gap and delivering broadband services for public institutions in villages such as schools, post offices, police stations and medical institutions.
The BharatNet started in 2011 as National Optical Fibre Network project and was to be completed by the end of 2013 initially. The deadline was deferred to September 2015 under the Congress-led UPA 2 regime. Under NDA government, the deadline was set at December 2016 but later deferred to March 2019.
BharatNet is crucial to meet government's proposed target of providing broadband access to all with minimum 50 Mbps by 2022.
Under its proposed “National Digital Communications Policy 2018,” the government plans to bring fixed line broadband access to 50% of the households and start landline portability services. The policy also suggested providing broadband coverage at 50 Mbps to every citizen and 1 Gbps connectivity to all gram panchayats by 2020 and 10 Gbps by 2022.