New Delhi: Telecom Commission, the country’s primary decision making body for the telecom sector, approved a plan to create a national optical fibre cable network that would provide all gram panchayats (village councils) high-speed Internet access.
The project, as proposed by the department of telecommunications, is initially expected to cost Rs20,000 crore.
Money for the venture will be taken from the Universal Services Obligation Fund. The fund is a special corpus, created to improve rural connectivity and is financed through a percentage of telecom service providers’ revenue. It currently has a corpus of about Rs16,000 crore. Around Rs6,000 crore is added every year.
“We will take the proposal to the Cabinet soon,” said Kapil Sibal, minister for communications and information technology. Sibal expects to complete the project within the next three years.
The government expects private operators will invest a similar amount to connect to the network and provide broadband access to those parts of the country that need it the most.
The broadband project will initially be executed by state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and some other companies, including RailTel, Sibal said. BSNL will form a special-purpose vehicle for the project and involve all the stakeholders.