The union cabinet is on Wednesday likely to approve an ambitious project to set up a national optical fibre network (NOFN) to connect some two lakh villages in 5,000 blocks across the country. The cost of the project is likely to be to the tune of Rs 20,000 crore.
An optical fibre network is needed to provide high speed broadband in rural areas.
The government will constitute a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to execute the project. The SPV will work closely with public sector units such as Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), Railtel, and Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd, and is likely to utilise their existing optical fibre networks.
The SPV will also lay additional fibre network. "This is to ensure that there is no duplication of fibre network," a government official said. The exercise will help generate additional revenue for BSNL, which has the largest network.
The subsidy will be provided from the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) that is raised through a 5% levy imposed on telecom operators' revenues. This is utilised for supporting telecom services in rural areas.
The broadband network will help connect all panchayats or elected council of village elders across the country. This will help dovetail panchayats with the larger national e-governance initiative. Only 30,000 of about 2.5 lakh panchayats across the country have so far got broadband connectivity.