Telecom Commission, the decision making body of Department of Telecom has approved Rs 20,000 crore for creating National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN) that intends to provide broadband services across the villages in India in the next 3 years. The project will be funded by Universal Service Obligation (USO) Fund. According to Kapil Sibal, Minister of Communication and Information Technology, the proposal will be put forward the cabinet soon for their approval. The broadband project will initially be executed by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and other institutions like RailTel.
– Under this scheme, the existing optical fiber network will be extended to the Gram Panchayat level. The network is presently restricted to district headquarters and block headquarters.
– A High Level Committee (HLC) has been set up under the Co-Chairmanship of Sam Pitroda, Adviser to PM on Public Information, Infrastructure and Innovation and NandanNilekani, Chairman, UIDAI. The committee will be responsible for creation and implementation of NOFN.
– A special purpose vehicle (SPV) will carry out the execution of the project. The vehicle will be owned by the Government/USOF.
– An advisory body has been established under the Chairmanship of Kapil Sibal to advise on the implementation issues and non discriminatory access of NOFN to service providers.
The government expects that the scheme will reduce the migration of rural people to urban areas, saying that the project will boost up employment alongwith facilitating its online initiatives such as e-health, e-banking, e-education, e-health, and e-agriculture among others. Remember that common service centers have been introduced in rural areas, with connectivity from BSNL, but it isn’t just connectivity that is required to ensure that CSCs work: availability of power is a significant consideration as well. Remember that most cellular towers in India work on diesel. The government may sanction laying out of an optical fibre network, but a working last mile access is just as important.