Info-tech

Bharat Broadband plans to connect gram panchayats in 3 phases

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on October 28, 2013 Published on October 28, 2013

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Bharat Broadband Network Ltd (BBNL) will opt for three-phased implementation of Internet connectivity across 2.5 lakh gram panchayats in India to provide e-government services.

A single window connectivity, through broadband and Wi-Fi, at the panchayat level would help delivery of e-services, Government-to-Government (Centre-to-State Government) services at the gram panchayats, and Government-to-consumer services, a document prepared by the Ministry of Communication & IT says.

BBNL is a special purpose vehicle set up by the Centre with three PSUs – Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), Railtel and Power Tel (the telecom business of Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd).

Around one lakh panchayats would be connected by September 2014, another one-lakh by July 2015 and the last 50,000 by March 2016.

The upcoming National Optical Fibre Network (aimed at last mile connectivity) will form the backbone for these facilities. NOFN rollout across these 2.5 lakh panchayats would be completed in three phases, ending December 2015. According to the draft, the capital expenditure in the project is estimated around Rs 3,750 crore with an annual operating expenditure of Rs 1,860 crore.

The Ministry of Rural Development would be the “anchoring agency”. While capital expenditure will be provided by the Ministry of Finance through the United Service Obligatory Funds (USOF), the Ministry of Rural Development would fund the operating expenditure.

Revenue Model

According to draft, it has been proposed that the Ministry of Rural Development would take a call on tariffs for services provided. A pre-paid model, which includes coupons having denominations of Rs 10 for a “reasonable download”, has been proposed.

These coupons would be provided from gram panchayat offices and the revenue so generated from their sale may be retained by panchayats.

This will help increase their involvement in the projects. Interestingly, the need for a revenue model came up after previous pilots (by BBNL) across 59 blocks in three States – Ajmer district of Rajasthan, Parvada in Vishakapatnam and Panisagar in Tripura – saw “lukewarm response”.

Hence, it was decided that there was a need to extend basic broadband services and ensure their utility first.

Internet and telecommunications service providers, however, were not willing to utilise their bandwidth in the absence of a monetising model. As such, revenue model that would benefit BBNL and other stake-holders that include BSNL have also been proposed.

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Published on October 28, 2013
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