Reality Check: Does PM’s Optical Fibre Net Plan Stick to Claims?
PM Narendra Modi inaugurated a project to connect all 45,945 villages of Bihar with optical fibre internet service.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a project to connect all 45,945 villages of Bihar with optical fibre-enabled internet service. The ambitious project, launched just months before the Bihar Assembly elections, aims to provide high-speed internet connectivity to every village in the state.
The inauguration also marks a step towards the prime minister’s announcement on 15 August from the ramparts of the Red Fort that all six lakh villages in India will be connected with optical fibre internet in the next 1,000 days.
The project, christened “Har Ghar Tak Fiber” (Fiber up to every home), is scheduled to be implemented in 180 days by 31 March 2021 at an approximate cost of Rs 1,000 Crore.
It also aims to provide 1 Wi-Fi and 5 free connections for one year to identified government Institutions, primary schools, anganwadi centres, Aasha workers & Jeevika Didis etc.
PM Modi’s Monday announcement comprises three important parts:
- rural connectivity
- optical fibre internet.
However, amid the ambitious scale of the announcement, a look at the connectivity data reveals that each of the three points have struggled in terms of penetration, implementation and coordination.
Let’s take a look at Bihar’s internet connectivity statistics as well as the progress of the Centre’s optical fibre project in five parts.
INTERNET CONNECTIVITY: ALL INDIA & BIHAR
According to TRAI’s report ‘The Indian Telecom Services Performance Indicators (Jan – March, 2020)’, India has 743 million internet subscribers that amounts to over 55 percent of the country’s population.
However, in Bihar, only 30.35 percent of the state’s population have internet connectivity.
INTERNET IN RURAL BIHAR
A closer look at Bihar’s internet connectivity paints a grim picture for rural parts of the state.
Bihar has 45,945 villages but according to the latest data, only 22.61 out of every 100 people in rural Bihar have an internet connection. This is the lowest among states for rural internet subscribers.
Compare this with Kerala whose rural subscribers are 98.10 out of every 100 people and Himachal Pradesh whose rural subscription is at 57 percent.
INTERNET SUBSCRIBERS IN URBAN BIHAR
In fact, a look at Bihar’s urban population paints a similar picture.
According to TRAI, Bihar’s urban population includes 17.86 million internet subscribers which amounts to 73.26 percent of the urban population. This figure, too, ranks at the bottom of the urban internet subscription rankings among states.
States like Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal all have an urban subscriber base above 90 percent.
Meanwhile, states Maharashtra, Assam, Punjab, Rajasthan and the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir boast of an urban subscription of over 100 percent meaning some individuals have more than one internet connection.
BHARAT NET (NATIONAL OPTICAL FIBRE PROJECT)
PM Modi’s inauguration of an optical fibre project to connect every village of Bihar comes at a time when the Centre’s ambitious Bharat Net project has been plagued by delays and missed deadlines.
National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) was launched in October 2011 and was renamed as Bharat Net Project in 2015.
The project, implemented by the Department of Telecommunications under the Ministry of Communications, aims to connect all the 2,50,000 Gram panchayats in the country with optical fibre network offering 100 Mbps connectivity.
As of 21 September, only 60 percent of the project has been completed with 1.5 lakh of the 2.5 lakh gram panchayats being connected.
In a written reply to a question in Lok Sabha, Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad stated that “As on 28.02.2020, by laying 4,24,299 km Optical Fibre Cable (OFC), a total of 1,50,029 GPs have been connected.”
The project is targeted to be completed by August 2021.
BHARAT NET IN BIHAR
Perhaps the only bright spot in a rather low internet connectivity in Bihar is the implementation of the Bharat Net project in Bihar.
“In Bihar, as on 04.09.2020, out of 8,963 GPs including BHQs, 8,790 GPs is service ready,” Sanjay Dhotre, Union Minister of State for Electronics & IT, stated in a written response in Lok Sabha on 16 September.
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