More Broadband Connection to India

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), the telecom company owned by government of India has started rolling out wire-line broadband connectivity to rural & remote areas. It is backed by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). DoT has signed an agreement with BSNL to provide 861 459 connections to individual users and government Institutions through rural and remote exchanges over a period of 5-years, i.e., by 2014.

The government’s plan is to give subsidy for new broadband connections in the rural parts of the country. The subsidy would be up to 50% of the total cost of setting the system by service providers. This USOF Scheme has an estimated subsidy flow of Rs. 1500 Crore (15 MdRs). The subsidy disbursement is for (i) broadband connections, Customer Premises Equipment (CPE), Computer/Computing devices (ii) setting up of Kiosks for public access to broadband services. This subsidy means that connection in rural India will be at the half cost than that in cities. According to BSNL authorities, they plan to provide eight million connections in rural blocks and is planning to have 9 milion connection by 2009 end. (1)

This scheme would be implemented in phased manner across the country and would also cover remote areas including the north-eastern states. The connectivity is being planned by leveraging the existing rural exchanges infrastructure and copper wire-line network. The objective is to enable broadband connectivity in the rural and remote areas by facilitating the service providers in creating Broadband infrastructure. The rural broadband connectivity will cover Institutional Users, such as Common Service Centres (CSCs), being set up by Department of Information Technology, Gram Panchayats, Higher secondary schools and Public Health Centres, as well as Individual Users located in the villages. This scheme has been undertaken on BOO model, i.e. build, operate & own basis. The speed of each of the broadband connections shall be at least 512 kbps always on, with the capability to deliver data, voice and video services in the fixed mode. All the Internet Service Providers, with valid license from DoT can apply for the Scheme. USOF has already invited Expression of Interest (EOI) from the Service Providers in this regard.

Even though government has started e-governance project with pomp, it was not able to achieve the desired level of efficiency in the project. There are many reasons to it including low connectivity in rural areas and shortage of manpower. In fact, the Department of Information and Technology could use only Rs 617 crore against the allocated Rs 719 crore on e-governance projects. The national e-governance plan (NeGP) covers 27 mission mode projects and 8 support component to be implemented at the central, state and local government levels. The project includes setting up of one lakh CSCs in six lakh villages across the country. It was planned to have nine million connections by 2007 and 20 million connections by 2010 in the country, but little over 6-7 million connections are in existence in India.

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