India’s central government will hold talks with the state governments in an attempt to push the delayed National Optic Fiber Network. Shortly known as NOFN, the nationwide deployment of fiber optic cable networks aimed mainly to deliver broadband to semi-urban and rural Indian mass, had been running slow inviting criticisms from all corners. The current government in power to rule India, which was selected last year with a clear mandate, has determined to push and follow up the major infrastructure development in India’s history so far.
Day after tomorrow, that is on May 29, 2015, the Central government will discuss with the state governments about the national optical fiber network project as the center seeks greater participation of state governments in the ambitious plan that aims to provide broadband connectivity to even the smallest administrative units in the country called panchayats.
Proposed by the telecom strategists and drafted by the telecom regulatory authority of India, TRAI in 2010, the national optic fiber network is vital to the overall economic growth and social developments in India. As per usual the plan, around 250,000 panchayats (administrative units) will be connected with high speed telecommunication networks to provide broadband services, that could be either through a wireless network or wire-line connection according to the conditions and situations at the last mile. Last mile connectivity with optical fiber to majority of the rural end users would not be practically viable due to the diverse geographical distribution of potential users. While fiber to the home connectivity would be possible and economically viable in cities and housing complexes, wireless broadband would be the solution for rural and semi-urban residential subscribers.
For a country like India that has around 30 percent below poverty level, infrastructure development is the key to lift its mass socially and economically. Digital divide exists between urban and rural population. NOFN is the first attempt to reduce digital divide in India. Disparities exist between cities and villages, between states and between people in the same state in terms of living conditions.
India’s telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has called a meeting of IT ministers and secretaries of all the states on May 29 to discuss the national optical fiber network (NOFN) project. Central government has created a special purpose vehicle, BBNL for the smooth execution and overall management of NOFN by deputing officials and engineers from the largest telecom operator in the country, BSNL. BBNL, the expanded form of which is Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, will be responsible for for design, planning and execution of the broadband network. Most of the financing will be done by central government, while a certain percentage, around 20 percent has to be provided by the respective state governments.
The Minister had earlier said that the government expects more participation of the states in the project as it was important in the success of Digital India initiative. India has a federal system that empowers individual states to decide the implementation of many of the policies enforced by the central government. On many issues that especially that involves political issues, many states oppose or put on hold the decisions made by center. Hope the current telecom infrastructure development by deploying nationwide fiber optic networks is beyond political disputes and the states will respond positively to be the center’s request.