About BharatNet project:
Bharat Net sought to connect all of India’s households, particularly in rural areas, through broadband, forming the backbone of the government’s ambitious Digital India programme. It proposes broadband connectivity to households under village panchayats and even to government institutions at district level. The project is being funded through the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).
Here is everything you need to know about the BharatNet project and how Narendra Modi government expedited its rollout:-
– BharatNet project has the mandate to provide high-speed broadband to all panchayats by March 2019
– Under BharatNet project, Modi government aims to connect 1.5 lakh panchayats through 10 lakh kilometres of additional optical fibre and give bandwidth to telecom players at nearly 75 per cent cheaper price for broadband and wifi services in rural areas.
– The total project cost of BharatNet is around Rs 45,000 crore, of which Rs 11,200 crore have been used for the first phase.
– After rural exchange rollout in the country when telecom services started, this is the biggest project involving domestically manufactured products for the entire project
– This is the 2nd phase of BharatNet project. Under the second phase, the government will lay down optical fibre network across 1.5 lakh village panchayats. The first phase of BharatNet will be completed by the end of the year.
– The project, then called the National Optical Fibre Network, was approved by the previous government in October 2011. However, only a few hundred kilometres out of 3 lakh kilometres of optical fibre were laid across the country.
– Narendra Modi government approved changes in the project to expedite rollout and renamed it as BharatNet.
– The Modi government expects to complete the entire BharatNet project, entailing an investment of Rs 42,000 crore in both the phases, by March 2019.
Universal Service Obligation Fund:
USOF, established in 2002, provides effective subsidies to ensure telegraph services are provided to everyone across India, especially in the rural and remote areas. It is headed by the USOF Administrator who reports to the Secretary, Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
Funds come from the Universal Service Levy (USL) of 5% charged from all the telecom operators on their Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) which are then deposited into the Consolidated Fund of India, and require prior parliamentary approval to be dispatched.
The USOF works through a bidding process, where funds are given to the enterprise quoting the lowest bid. However, the funds for NOFN were made an exception to this process since BBNL was the sole party involved in the implementation having being specifically created for it.