The Department of Telecom is looking at various models to expedite the rollout of National Optical Fibre Network that aims to link all panchayats with broadband connectivity. Also Read - Jio maintains lead in 4G download speed, Vi in upload in May: TRAI
The options being looked at include restructuring the special purpose vehicle for the project, BBNL or handing over the entire task to state-owned telecom firm BSNL and fixing greater accountability on officers involved in NOFN’s execution. “There has been too much delay in NOFN. About 3-4 models are being worked out which will be presented before the minister (Ravi Shankar Prasad) who will take the final call on it,” a government official told PTI. Also Read - BSNL launches a new cheap Rs 499 broadband plan to take on Airtel Xtreme, JioFiber
“The DoT is assessing if there is a need to continue with existing model of doing it through BBNL or give the entire task to BSNL,” he said. The UPA government had approved Rs 20,000 crore for starting the NOFN project in 2011. At the conception stage, the UPA government had set a deadline of 2012 for completing the project. The deadline was then extended to December, 2013 and later to September, 2015. The Bhartiya Janata Party in its manifesto also promised to focus on increasing the penetration and usage of broadband across the country at every village level. Also Read - BSNL offers 100 minutes free calling with select plans to aid COVID-19, Cyclone Tauktae affected users
Under the present arrangement, a special purpose vehicle Bharat Broadband Network Ltd (BBNL) is working on the project in which BSNL, PowerGrid and RailTel jointly hold 60 percent stake and 40 percent is owned by the government. The official said that one of the suggestions is to have a re-look at the structure of BBNL, keep Railtel and PowerGrid out as it is not their mandate to provide full fledged telecom services, and create another firm under BSNL to manage the project.
Besides, he said that there is a need to “fix accountability of officers” as the project suffers if work of anyone of the PSUs is left incomplete. “Also, revenue streams have to be worked out so that officials at state level take interest and report progress to their bosses,” he added.