Prime Minister Narendra Modi will preside over a meeting tomorrow to deliberate on overhauling of the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) project, which aims to connect 2.5 lakh gram panchayats by the end of 2016.
The meeting, to be attended by Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and other ministry officials, will discuss the report submitted by former IT Secretary J Satyanarayana-led committee to fast-track the broadband project.
According to sources, the Telecom Ministry will give a presentation to the Prime Minister and discuss the committee’s various recommendations that include involvement of private sector for the project, role of state governments, use of satellites and radio waves for providing connectivity to certain areas, among others.
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The committee has proposed to rename the project as BharatNet, which is to be completed by December 2017 at an estimated cost of Rs 72,778 crore.
The sources said that investment in BharatNet would result in a significant growth in the economy and indirect benefits would lead to a pay-off within one year of commissioning.
“With the implementation of BharatNet, the potential economic benefit due to increased access to internet provided across the country comes to about Rs 66,465 crore by 2018-19,” a source said.
The project forms the backbone of Digital India programme but is lagging behind schedule, which led to the formation of the committee to suggest ways to fast-track the project.
By the end of March 2015, only 20,000 village panchayats got broadband connectivity whereas the target was to connect 50,000 village panchayats.
The project was conceived in 2011 and deadline to connect all panchayats was to be met by the end of 2013. But later the timeline was deferred to September 2015 by the then UPA government.
The BJP-led government re-examined status and set a target to complete roll out in 50,000 VPs by March 31, 2015, another 1 lakh by March 2016 and rest of the VPs by end of 2016.