The Tamil Nadu government will provide internet services, which will include IPTV through Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation (TACTV), which is the state’s cable TV operator, and implement BharatNet linking over 12,500 local rural bodies in the state, with an investment of Rs 3,000 crore ($451 million), reports NDTV. The services will be rolled out early next year.
TACTV has received an ISP license from the Union IT Ministry, and signed a pact with Indian RailTel to provide high speed broadband services. The report states that 552 cable operators have been selected for this operation so far. The broadband will be provided by a newly formed company, the Tamil Nadu Fibernet Corporation. There’s a chance that the Corporation may later offer video on demand services as well.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister V Jayalalithaa said that since all village panchayats in the state were going to be linked under BharatNet (previously known as National Optic Fiber Network or NOFN), the state government would use the ISP license to provide internet to all households, according to this Hindu report. The government will procure bandwidth and equipment, to be installed in 2 lakh government buildings and later to households with TACTV cable subscriptions, from international companies.
The Tamil Nadu Fibernet Corporation has supposedly hired Pricewaterhousecoopers to make the business plan and provide support services for internet and other value added services. TACTV reportedly has a subscriber base of over 70 lakh. A New Indian Express report stated that the internet services were being tested on a pilot basis in select areas of Vellore and Kanchipuram in the state.
Digital India had 20,000 connected villages in May
Note that by May, under the Digital India initiative, 20,000 villages had been connected to broadband services under the NOFN plan. The original plan which was to provide 100 Mbps connectivity to gram panchayats had been allegedly revised to provide between 2-10 Mbps connections. Only 8% of the initial target had been achieved in 4 years. It would interest our readers to note that the TRAI defines broadband as internet connections above 512 Kbps.
Kerala’s Idukki saw NOFN pilot
In January this year, as part of the Digital India programme, NOFN was piloted in Kerala’s Idukki district by union minister for communications and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad. In Idukki, 52 Gram Panchayats and eight block offices would be connected by the NOFN. Kerala was scheduled to become fully digitally connected by the end of March. Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, also in southern India, were likely to follow next.
Inception of BharatNet
BharatNet was initiated in 2011 through funds from Universal Service Obligation Fund to provide broadband connectivity to 200,000 gram panchayats in India at a cost of Rs 20,000 crore. The government approved this project in late 2011 to provide e-services and e-applications throughout the country. It also created a public sector unit called the Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) and was supposed to be completed by 2013. 26 states and union territories signed MoUs to enable connectivity to 226,458 gram panchayats.
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