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Bharat Net reaches 59K Gram Panchayats spanning 137,515 Kms: DIPP

The Bharat Net project, which aims to deploy high-speed optical fibre-cable network across rural areas of the country has now reached 59,945 Gram Panchayats spanning a distance of 137,515 kms as of November 2016, the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotions (DIPP) said in a report (pdf). This is up from a reach of 36,738 gram panchayts as February 2016. Bharat Net was rebranded from its initial name National Optic Fibre Network (NOFN) in April last year and aims to cover a total of 2.5 lakh gram panchayats. Its aim is to connect 90,000 villages by fiscal 2017 end. The project is funded under the Universal Services Obligation Fund—set up by the government in 2002 for providing telecommunications services in rural areas at subsided rates. Interestingly, in an agreement (pdf) made with Bharat Broadband Network Limited earlier in 2014, USOF says that the Bharat Net target was to reach 250,000 gram panchayats by 2013. However, it is not clear how much funding was allocated by USOF for the Bharat Net project. Since its inception in April 2002, USOF disbursed Rs 33654.90 crore for various projects up till 2016 and still has Rs 47167.33 crore that can be allocated for future projects. USOF had recently cleared subsidy amount of Rs 1,250 crore to state-owned telco BSNL for its subsidized rural broadband services at rates starting from Rs 99, Rs 150, Rs 350 up till Rs 999. No of rural connections The DIPP report said that the net addition in overall (wireless+wireline) connections in…

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