BharatNet phase-II process starts; govt to finalise PPP model soon

In the second phase the government plans to connect 150,000 gram panchayats, for the first time through a public-private partnership
The Union government is readying the next phase of BharatNet -- the project that aims to provide broadband connectivity to 250,000 gram panchayats in the country -- and will soon finalise a Public Private Partnership model where each state may be allowed to invite private players based on demand. The proposal, which is at an advanced stage, will empower states to make their own decision as far as private participation is concerned.

It is learnt that the Department of Telecommunications has firmed up the proposal with the government think tank NITI Aayog, to monetise BharatNet and will soon be sent to the Cabinet for its approval.

The proposal includes models where the states will decide to take up the fibre network optimisation role. It will be divided into three broad models – utilisation, maintenance and creation. 

According to experts states will be given the autonomy to decide which model or which model combination they want to use. For instance, the state will have the liberty to decide whether it would want to create its own broadband infrastructure through private participation or only seek private help in the maintenance of the internet infrastructure.

While, it is being seen as a progressive step for expanding internet connectivity to the hinterland some feel that the states may arm twist the proposal.

“It will be prone to states giving special benefits to some companies at the cost of healthy competition,” an official who did not wish to be quoted said.

The government stands to gain from the revenue point of view from this monetization exercise.

The BharatNet project was approved to be set up in phases - first phase entailed a cost of Rs 18,000 crore and for the second phase the estimates were around Rs 27,000 crore.

Phase-I included connecting 100,000 gram panchayats by March 2017, and the next phase is expected to begin from mid-2017 and be completed by September 2018.

In the second phase the government plans to connect 150,000 gram panchayats, for the first time through a public-private partnership.

HIGHLIGHTS 
  • BharatNet project was approved to be set up in phases - first phase entailed a cost of Rs 18,000 cr; for second phase estimates were around Rs 27,000 cr
  • Phase-I included connecting 100,000 gram panchayats by March 2017, and the next phase is expected to begin from mid-2017
  • The second phase entails a variety of media and implementation both by public and private sector agencies to increase capacity and speed of implementation
  • In phase II the government plans to connect 150,000 gram panchayats and, for the first time, through a public-private partnership


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