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Kerala aims to commission affordable internet plan by December

In a state where internet penetration is already high, all that the government has to do is build the necessary infrastructure to take connectivity even deeper.

By: Express Web Desk | Kochi |
Updated: May 30, 2020 10:46:23 pm
In a post-Covid landscape, where work from home has become the new normal, the government understands the significance of capitalising on the demand for seamless bandwidth for internet and thereby creating a knowledge-based economy where technology will be key. (Representative photo)

Kerala’s flagship proposal to provide high-speed, affordable internet connectivity to 20 lakh households and 30,000 government institutions, including schools, through the Kerala Fibre Optic Network (KFON) will be commissioned in December this year, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said at a press briefing in Thiruvananthapuram Friday.

The decision was taken after the chief minister took part in a video-conference with a consortium of public and private firms engaged in the project.

In a post-Covid landscape, where work from home has become the new normal, the government understands the significance of capitalising on the demand for seamless bandwidth for internet and thereby creating a knowledge-based economy where technology will be key.

In a state where internet penetration is already high, all that the government has to do is build the necessary infrastructure to take connectivity even deeper. Once the grid becomes a reality, private service providers can hop on and use it to give internet access to their clients.

Read | Now, Pinarayi says no community spread, cites Kerala’s positivity rate

Through the KFON project, the government has promised on delivering internet free of cost to two million families living below the poverty line and ensuring the same at affordable rates to others. Local body institutions, government offices, schools and hospitals will be connected to the grid as well. The project is funded at a cost of Rs 1548 crores mainly from the capital at the disposal of Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund board (KIIFB), the go-to agency of the government for sponsoring infra projects. Resources of the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) and the Kerala State IT Infrastructure Limited (KSITL) are being used to spread the optical fibre network. A consortium of firms led by the Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) has bagged the project tender.

“The project will boost the efforts to attract industrial investments to Kerala. The government has given all required backing to the consortium of firms to complete the project on time. The IT department is constantly evaluating the progress,” the CM said.

“In a post-Covid world, the significance of internet will rise. The movement of the world will be rooted in the internet. The use of internet in sectors like banking and education will rise on a large-scale. KFON will strongly back the government’s efforts to make Kerala a global industrial-educational-tourist hub.”

Read | India coronavirus numbers explained: Kerala now growing faster than national average

However, the road isn’t smooth for KFON to take off. Last week, the Kerala State Electricity Regulatory Commission (KSERC) issued an order objecting to a tripartite agreement signed by KSEB, KSITL and the state government. When the question regarding the same was posed to the CM, he said the joint venture partners would assuage the concerns of the KSERC.

The KFON initiative, which was part of the manifesto of the CPM-led LDF during the 2016 Assembly elections, became pronounced after the LDF government declared the right to access internet a basic human right in 2017, which was underlined by the Kerala High Court in one of its rulings in September last year. Later, in January this year, the Supreme Court reiterated the same in the backdrop of suspension of internet in Jammu and Kashmir.

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