The Union Cabinet led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday cleared a new public-private partnership (PPP) route to implement BharatNet projects across all inhabited villages in 16 states. While making the announcement, Union IT Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad said the expansion of BharatNet to all villages in the country will fulfill people's need for internet connectivity to access healthcare, education and e-governance services.
According to the Union government, better digital connectivity will also enable access to entertainment services, now that over-the-top (OTT) platforms are exploding in popularity.
“Viability gap funding support of up to Rs 19,041 crore has been approved. All the states and UTs which are not covered so far will be included in the expansion,” Prasad said.
Last year Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced broadband connectivity to all inhabited villages in 1,000 days. Out of 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats, 1.56 lakh have been made service ready by May 31, 2021. The total outlay will now be Rs 61,109 crore including the already approved amount of Rs 42,068 crore in 2017.
Under the current phase, the government aims to connect 1.5 lakh panchayats through 10 lakh kilometres of additional optical fiber and give bandwidth to telecom players at a nearly 75 per cent cheaper price for broadband and WiFi services in rural areas.
The BharatNet project is intended to bring broadband internet connectivity to each of the more than 2.5 lakh gram panchayats across the country. It is being implemented by the Bharat Broadband Network Ltd (BBNL), a special purpose vehicle of the government, and is expected to enable access at the primary level of village administration to digitally-enabled services like tele-medicine, tele-education, e-health, and e-entertainment, etc, according to the Digital India portal.
The project will bring more than 600 million people living in rural India onto the information superhighway as it connects gram panchayat level offices like schools, panchayat offices, post offices, etc. and ensures internet for all.
As part of the BharatNet project, the Centre plans to provide last-mile connectivity through Wi-Fi by setting up Wi-Fi hotspots in all gram panchayats.