The telecom department (DoT) is considering giving viability gap funding (VGF) for the BharatNet project to encourage private sector participation, especially in providing last mile connectivity, and is likely to move a Cabinet note within a fortnight to seek approval.

A senior DoT official said the government is planning to take the VGF step such that the project can be sped up and can meet deadline of December 2018 to connect all 250,000 gram panchayats with high-speed internet.

“Within a month, the target is to light up 500-1,000 villages everyday with GPON equipment and for the second phase, we might change the process a little bit-involve private as well as state-run telecom service providers to offer services in the last mile connectivity,“ the official said, asking not to be named. “We are willing to give viability gap funding for this, we will take this to the Cabinet in a couple of weeks' time,“ the official said, adding some private telecom players had been consulted with and had shown interest in maintaining the last mile infrastructure. ET had previously reported that Reliance Jio was is in talks with DoT to lease dark, or unused, optic fibre and was studying bu siness prospects to use it in Haryana and Karnataka.

BharatNet is one of the key connectivity programs of the government, which was rebranded from National Optic Fibre Network (NOFN) project in April 2015, under which the government planned to provide 100 Mbps to all gram panchayats, but the project had moved slowly since inception in 2012. The government had, initially , planned to provide affordable broadband to all panchayats by 2017-end, but several challenges delayed implementation and pushed the deadline to December 2018. - TOI


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