Cabinet approves viability gap funding to roll out BharatNet

The project will be implemented through PPP model in 16 States.

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a viability gap funding support of up to ₹19,041 crore for the implementation of the BharatNet project through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model in 16 States.

The project will be extended to all inhabited villages beyond the gram panchayats in 16 States — Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

“The Cabinet has in-principle approved implementation of BharatNet in 16 States in a public-private partnership model with a total expense of ₹29,430 crore. The Government of India will only spend the viability gap fund of ₹19,041 crore,” the Minister said, adding that an estimated 3.61 lakh villages, including gram panchayats, would be covered via BharatNet.

An official release added that the revised strategy will include creation, upgrading, operation, maintenance and utilisation of BharatNet by the concessionaire or the private sector partner, who will be selected by a competitive international bidding process.

High speed services

“The PPP Model will leverage private sector efficiency for operation, maintenance, utilisation and revenue generation and is expected to result in the faster roll out of BharatNet. The selected concessionaire is expected to provide reliable, high speed broadband services as per pre-defined Services Level Agreement (SLA),” it added.

The private sector partner is expected to bring an equity investment and raise resources towards capital expenditure and for operation and maintenance of the network.

Extension of BharatNet to all inhabited villages will enable better access to e-services offered by various governments, enable online education, telemedicine, skill development, e-commerce and other applications of broadband, Mr. Prasad said, adding that this would help bridge the rural-urban divide of digital access.

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