Bridging the Digital Divide with BharatNet Project

  Aug 09, 2023

BharatNet Project and Digital Divide

1. What is BharatNet?

BharatNet is the government's ambitious project aimed at providing last-mile optical fiber-based connectivity to homes in all 6.4 lakh villages in India. It is one of the biggest rural telecom projects in the world and aims to bridge the digital divide by ensuring internet connectivity reaches remote areas.

2. How much funding has been approved for BharatNet?

The Union Cabinet has approved funding of ₹1,39,579 crore for scaling up the BharatNet project. This funding will be used to provide connectivity to the remaining villages that are yet to be connected.

3. How many villages have been connected so far under BharatNet?

Around 1.94 lakh villages have been connected so far under the BharatNet project. The government aims to connect the rest of the villages within the next two-and-a-half years.

4. Who is implementing the BharatNet project?

The BharatNet project is being executed by Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL), which is a special purpose vehicle (SPV) under the State-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL).

5. How is connectivity being provided in partnership with village-level entrepreneurs (VLEs)?

BBNL is partnering with village-level entrepreneurs (VLEs) to provide last-mile connectivity to homes in the villages. The model involves taking fiber optic cables to the homes with the help of local entrepreneurs. The project has already been piloted successfully in four districts and expanded to 60,000 villages across various states.

6. What is the average data consumption per household under BharatNet?

The average data consumption per household under BharatNet has been recorded at 175 gigabytes per month. This indicates the growing demand for internet services in rural areas.

7. How much optical fiber cable (OFC) has been laid under the project?

Approximately 37 lakh route kilometers (rkm) of optical fiber cable (OFC) have been laid under the BharatNet project, with BBNL accounting for 7.7 lakh rkm of the total.

8. What are the broadband plan prices for users under BharatNet?

The monthly broadband plan prices for users start at ₹399 and go up to ₹799 with a minimum speed of 30 Mbps.

9. When was BharatNet first approved, and how is it being rolled out?

BharatNet was first approved in October 2011. It is being implemented in a phased manner, with Phase-II being approved in 2017. The project is being rolled out with a 50 per cent revenue share between BBNL and VLEs to ensure sustainable and widespread connectivity

10. How does it bridge digital divide?

The convergence of BharatNet, 5G rollout, and the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) presents a powerful opportunity to bridge the digital divide comprehensively. As rural areas gain access to high-speed internet through BharatNet and 5G, and as USOF ensures financial support for these initiatives, India can achieve greater digital inclusion, economic growth, and improved quality of life for its citizens across the country.

Bridging the Digital Divide:

1. Digital Divide Definition:The digital divide refers to the gap between individuals or communities who have access to and can effectively use digital technologies and those who lack access or skills to engage with these technologies.
2. Rural-Urban Disparity: India's digital divide is primarily evident in the significant disparity between urban and rural areas in terms of internet access, digital literacy, and digital services.
3. Impact on Development: The digital divide can hinder socio-economic development by limiting access to online education, healthcare services, government initiatives, financial services, and e-commerce opportunities.

Role of BharatNet:

1. Extending Connectivity: BharatNet aims to connect over 600,000 villages in India with high-speed broadband internet. It involves the laying of optical fiber cables (OFC) to provide last-mile connectivity to government institutions, schools, healthcare centers, and individual households.
2. Public Wi-Fi Access Points: The project also focuses on setting up public Wi-Fi access points in rural areas to enable communities to access the internet even if they don't have personal devices.
3. Digital Services Delivery: BharatNet facilitates the delivery of various digital services, including e-governance, online education, telemedicine, and digital payments, to rural populations.

Challenges and Impact:

1. Infrastructure Challenges: Implementing BharatNet faces challenges like difficult terrain, right-of-way issues, and maintenance of the OFC infrastructure.
2. Digital Literacy: Bridging the digital divide also requires efforts to enhance digital literacy among rural communities to enable them to make the most of internet services.
3. Empowerment and Inclusion: BharatNet has the potential to empower rural populations by providing access to information, government services, and markets. It can also promote financial inclusion and improve livelihood opportunities.
4. Education and Healthcare: High-speed internet access can improve access to quality education and telemedicine services, helping rural students and patients receive the benefits of online learning and healthcare consultations.


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