Context: Recently, the Union Cabinet approved Rs 1.39 lakh crore for modernising the BharatNet project.
- This initiative involves changing its execution strategy and providing fiber connections to the last mile through Village Level Entrepreneurs.
- Village Level Entrepreneurs (Udyamis) Involvement: Partnering with Village Level Entrepreneurs (Udyamis), who will play a pivotal role in providing fiber connections to the last mile.
- Speeding Up Connectivity Process: Government aims to expedite the process of connecting all 640,000 villages across India within the next 2.5 years.
- This acceleration aligns with the goal of enhancing digital connectivity and bridging the urban-rural digital divide.
- 50:50 Revenue-Sharing Model: Taking a cue from private telecom operators like Airtel and Jio, the government will involve village level entrepreneurs or Udyamis to take the fiber connections to the homes on a 50:50 revenue-sharing basis.
- Infrastructure Costs Borne by Government: The government will cover the expenses related to bringing the necessary infrastructure to the households, such as laying down the fiber connections and related hardware.
- Maintenance and Operations Responsibilities: Village level entrepreneurs (Udyamis) will be responsible for the ongoing maintenance and operations of the home connections.
- This includes addressing technical issues, conducting repairs, and ensuring uninterrupted service.
- Addressing Consumer Complaints Udyamis: They will take charge of handling consumer complaints, particularly those related to fiber cuts or disruptions in connectivity.
- Successful Pilot in 60,000 Villages: By involving local partners in the villages, the government managed to connect households effectively using this new approach.
- Expected Employment Opportunities: The inclusion of Udyamis in the project is anticipated to create employment opportunities for approximately 250,000 individuals.
- It is the world’s largest rural broadband connectivity programme using Optical fibre.
- National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) which was launched in 2011 was renamed as Bharat Net Project in 2015.
- NOFN was envisaged as an information superhighway through the creation of a robust middle-mile infrastructure for reaching broadband connectivity to Gram Panchayats.
- Fund: The entire project is being funded by Universal service Obligation Fund (USOF), which was set up for improving telecom services in rural and remote areas of the country.
- Implementing Agency: Bharat Broadband Network (BBNL).
- BBNL is a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) set up by the Government of India under the Companies Act, 1956.
- Merger into BSNL: Bharat Broadband Network (BBNL) was merged into BSNL in July last year.