The Cabinet on Wednesday approved the 'Modified Implementation Strategy' of BharatNet project for providing broadband connectivity to all gram panchayats by March 2019, according to an official source.
"The Cabinet has approved the modified implementation Strategy of BharatNet towards realisation of vision of Digital India," the source said.
The objective of the project is to provide minimum 100Mbps broadband connectivity to all gram panchayats in the country by using an mix of underground fibre, aerial fibre, radio and satellite media.
The approval entails a total estimated expenditure of Rs. 42,068 crores for the implementation of BharatNet, which will be funded from Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).
Of this amount, Rs. 11,148 crores is the cost of providing connectivity to one lakh Gram Panchayats (GP) in the first phase and Rs. 18,792 crores is for providing connectivity to remaining 1.5 lakh gram panchayats in second phase.
"The balance amount is for such essential activities not covered in the initial BharatNet framework, which include, last mile connectivity architecture, operation and maintenance and replacement of BSNL's poor quality fibre being used in the project between Block to GP," the source added.
The modified strategy includes implementation of project by states and state agencies, private sector and CPSUs, and providing connectivity by "mix of media" rather than only by underground optical fibre, which was the initial strategy.
It also entails last mile connectivity in every gram panchayat for service delivery on Wi-Fi or any other technology.
"Infrastructure created under BharatNet will be shared with all categories of service providers on non-discriminatory basis. The implementation agency would also be responsible for management, operation maintenance, preferably for the life time of the project," the source added.
The modified implementation strategy of BharatNet project will enable faster implementation of various mission mode e-governance projects of central and State governments. It will facilitate electronic delivery of services to citizens of various e-governance, e-commerce, e-education, and e-health services.
Overall, the project - that seeks to create network infrastructure for broadband connectivity to all 2.5 lakh gram panchayats in the country - is being implemented in a phased manner.
The first phase entailing roll out to 1,00,000 gram panchayats has been completed this year, after several delays, and the remaining gram panchayats were earlier proposed to be covered by December 2018.