Wireline broadband, optic fibre backbone among those projects hit

As many as four major projects under the Universal Service Obligation fund are set to miss the target for the current fiscal. The reasons vary from shortage of modems to law and order problems in the new areas. The losers are the rural consumers.

Take for example the rural wireline broadband scheme entrusted to Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd which has missed the target by a long shot. As against a target of 2.5 lakh connections this year, the State-run company has done only 32,270 till September 30. Under this scheme, BSNL was supposed to provide 512 kbps broadband connection to a total of 8.88 lakh users and will set up 28,672 kiosks for public access. The USO had agreed to give Rs 1,500 crore to the PSU over 5 years.

No harmony

Lack of coordination among the implementing agencies and procedural delays have also pushed back the Rs 20,000-crore National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) project by almost a year.

The project, which is expected to reach broadband services to rural areas, is being done under a new entity called Bharat Broadband Network Ltd but the laying of the optical cable is being carried out by public sector companies which already own some optical fibre cable.

Right of Way tussle

At a recent meeting, Bharat Broadband Nigam Ltd complained that there was no harmony in the tendering and execution process among the public sector companies. Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, PowerGrid and RailTel are supposed to lay the additional cables required to connect all the villages.

In addition, some of the State Governments have objected to giving right of way for laying the cable. For instance, the West Bengal Government has raised objections over lack of clarity on the amount of compensation to be paid for laying the optical fibre network in the State’s villages. Until now, none of the 24 States has signed the MoU with BBNL for laying the cable.

These targets were set under the Results Framework Document by the USO fund administrator for the year 2012-13

thomas.thomas@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on December 3, 2012)
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