The government has taken corrective steps to ensure that the much-delayed ambitious BharatNet project is completed by end of next year, Parliament was informed today. BharatNet project, earlier known as National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN), was launched in 2011 by the previous government and has already missed several deadlines. The project is funded by Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) with the aim of providing broadband connectivity to 2.5 lakh gram panchayats (GPs). "We have made good progress so far. The BharatNet project will be completed on time by December 2018," Communications Minister Manoj Sinha said during Question Hour in Rajya Sabha. The phase-I aims to cover 1 lakh GPs and will be completed by 2017. So far, 78,220 GPs have been connected through optical fibre connectivity (OPC), 16,748 GPs have been lit and trenching and ducting have been completed for 96,080 GPs, he said. Responding to a query raised by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on plans to connect within the GPs, the Minister said, "It is a genuine question.
We have decided to provide two hot spots in every GP." Stating that there was delay in executing the project due to various reasons, the Minister said the government has taken "corrective action" to fast-track the project and a revised implementation plan been put in place. As per the revised strategy approved by the Telecom Commission, the Minister said the project would be implemented in a phased manner. In the first phase, 1 lakh GPs will be connected by following the current methodology, that is, to connect by underground optical fibre connectivity (OFC), he said. In phase-II, the remaining GPs will be connected through optimal mix of underground and aerial OFC, radio and satellite media, he added. That apart, BSNL's existing fibre will be replaced wherever the quality of cable is not adequate and allowed decentralised procurement of equipment through implementing CPSUs in addition to Bharat Broadband Netword Ltd (BBNL). Operation and Maintenance (O&M) and revenue sharing arrangement between BBNL and BSNL has been approved by the Telecom Department and advance funding to conduct GIS mapping of electricity poles has been provided to seven states for laying of aerial OFC. Sinha also mentioned that empowered committees both at the central and state level are set up to monitor the progress of the project. The government has allocated Rs 6,000 crore for 2016-17 fiscal. Of which, Rs 4,617 crore has been received to promote rural basic infrastructure and the entire amount has been utilised. Till February this year, Rs 47,924.76 crore has been deposited in USOF, he said. Once implemented, the project is intended to enable the Centre to provide e-services and e-applications nationally.
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