Broadband connectivity target halved for current FY

Public enterprises rolling out the National Optical Fibre Network have stated their inability in meeting the target of connectivity to one lakh panchayats

ankitalahiri

Ankita Lahiri | June 25, 2014



The deadline for National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN), which aims to provide high speed broadband connectivity to 2.5 lakh villages, has been revised again. The three public enterprises, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), RailTel and PowerGrid, providing optical fibre, have stated that the target for broadband connectivity, which was 100,000 villages for this financial year, would be slashed to half. The three public enterprises told this to minister for communications and information technology Ravi Shankar Prasad in a meeting conducted on 9 June. The three PSEs cited rising costs of ducts as a reason for delay in the tendering process and the eventual delay in the project rollout.

The project is being funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF)—a body under the department of telecommunications for providing subsidized rural broadband infrastructure. Speaking on the delay, N Ravi Shankar, administrator, USOF, said, “The three PSEs have been unable to finalise the local tenders due to the increasing costs of the ducts in last one year. So we have told these enterprises to justify the rates.”

Shankar further explained that due to the rising international price of the inputs that go into the making of ducts have gone up. “The industry experts have revealed that globally the input prices are rising by 15-18 percent which is affecting the cost of the ducts and hence the project,” revealed Shankar.

During the meeting, the minister asked the three enterprises for a realistic target that could be achieved within the financial year. Eventually, March 2017 was set as the new deadline.

The initial agreement between the three enterprises and the USOF was to provide broadband connectivity to 2.5lakh gram panchayats by the end of 2013.

Earlier this year the deadline was pushed to 2015. The telecomm commission, the apex decision making body of the DoT, had approved the Rs 20,000 crore project in 2011,

“This project is the IT equivalent of the “Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yohana”. The last mile is always a big, big challenge,” Shankar said, reacting to the issue of continuous delay.

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