5,000 Villages To Get Wireless Internet By 15 August: IT Ministry


New Delhi: Five thousand villages across the country will get wireless Internet access by 15 August, a top government official working on the project said.

Panchayat-level common service centres (CSCs), which come under the IT ministry will help roll out Wi-Fi Internet in rural and remote areas, Dinesh Tyagi, chief executive officer, CSC e-governance services in the ministry of electronics and information technology said. The IT ministry is working with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) towards this.

The CSCs will act as facilitators to get broadband to villages from the optic fibre network laid down as part of the Bharat Net Project.

“We have received a mandate to make 5,000 panchayats Wi-Fi enabled and we should be able to complete it by 15 August. This Wi-Fi will not be a single point Wi-Fi; it will cover the entire village. We take the connection from Bharat Net optic fibre and then connect it to villages by creating a mesh with 6-8 antennas across the village,” Tyagi said in an interview.

“Till now, about 2,800 villages have already been covered. We are on an aggressive path and we should complete the remaining villages by the given date. We have covered entire Pondicherry, and about 250 panchayats in Haridwar, Faridabad, Bokaro, Ramnagar in Jharkhand,” he said.

Bharat Net project is being implemented by DoT to create network infrastructure for providing 100 Mbps broadband to all gram panchayats (approximately 250,000) in the country in a phased manner by the end of 2018.

In its first phase, 100,000 gram panchayats have been connected by laying underground optical fibre cable and it was implemented through three central public sector undertakings – Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, RailTel Corp. of India Ltd and PowerGrid Corp of India Ltd. After several delays, it was completed recently.

In May, the IT ministry had instructed the DoT to link all CSCs under Bharat Net. CSCs are set up in remote rural villages and help distribute e-governance schemes and other government linked digital schemes to citizens.

“We have the Internet Service Provider (ISP) licence and we sell Internet to villages at a differential rate structures. We sell coupons for Rs7, 10, 20, 200 depending on the requirement of the rural customer. Till now, we have sold almost 100,000 coupons through such an ecosystem and by next year, it will start generating profits too,” he added.

“The major concern was lack of ownership, which has been done away with. The CSC operator kind of takes ownership, he has got the biggest stake and he is kind of first user, so he’ll see to it that the system runs efficiently,” Tyagi said.

There are around 250,000 CSCs across the country, according to Tyagi.

“We are trying to get private companies on board for providing Internet connection in regions like north-eastern states. We are trying to connect our antennas with their antennas which can cover an area of around 10-15 km through the same mesh network,” he said.

The Union budget 2017-18 allocated Rs10,000 crore towards Bharat Net to expedite the project.