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Union Budget 2019: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman underscores NDA government’s commitment to internet for all villages

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman reiterated that vision in her maiden budget, saying the so-called BharatNet project will be expedited with the support of the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).

Union Budget 2019: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman underscores NDA government’s  commitment to internet for all villages
Internet for all gram panchayats has been a constant promise of the Modi government for the past five years. The government has targeted to connect all 2.5 lakh village panchayats with high-speed broadband by March 2020.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman reiterated that vision in her maiden budget, saying the so-called BharatNet project will be expedited with the support of the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF). She said under the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan, more than 2 Crore rural Indians have been made digitally literate so far and Bharat Net is targeting intent connectivity in local bodies in every panchayat in the country. "To bridge the rural-urban digital divide, BharatNet is targeting internet connectivity in local bodies in every panchayat in the country. This will be speeded up with the assistance of universal service obligation fund (USOF) under the public-private partnership," Sitharaman said
As per the last available data, Rs 50,554 crore was available in the USOF as of the end of May 2019. Up to 3.33 lakh km optical fibre cable has been laid, connecting 1,28 lakh gram panchayats as of May end. Bharat Net is fully funded by the USOF. All telecom services companies pay a levy towards the USOF, which is the primary source of income for this fund
Here is the impact expected from the move:
  • Telecom companies with strong broadband and wireless presence will be included in the process. Companies such as Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, MTNL & BSNL would be key here
  • The larger impact would be on optical fibre cable companies like Sterlite Technologies.
  • With 1.28 lakh gram panchayats connected so far, it will not be easy for the government to fast track the deployment and cover 1.22 lakh gram panchayats by 2020. Experts say a more realistic timeline to connect all 2.5 lakh villages with broadband connectivity would be 2022. However, if the govt increases public-private partnership, it would help in fast-tracking the vision and executing in within 1 year.
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