New Delhi: The Kerala government on Wednesday approved a fibre optic network project to provide free high-speed internet connection to around 20 lakh families below the poverty line in the state. The Rs 1,548 crore flagship project of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala will be completed by December 2020, state Finance Minister Thomas Isaac said on Thursday.
“Internet connection made a basic citizen right. Kerala cabinet gives final nod for ₹1548 crores Kerala Fibre Optic Network (KFON) Project to provide Internet to every household in the state. For 20 lakh BPL (below poverty line) households it will be free. The project to be completed by Dec 2020," Kerala finance minister Thomas Isaac tweeted on Thursday.
The fibre optic network was one of the major promises made by the Left Democratic Front in the run-up to the Assembly elections in 2016. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has been working to get more investors in Kerala to ramp up the state’s technical infrastructure for other big projects.
The scheme will be set up by the Kerala State Electricity Board Limited (KSEB) and Kerala State IT Infrastructure Limited. The Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board will provide the financial assistance for the project. A consortium of firms led by Bharat Electronics Limited has bagged the tender for the project.
The government plans to establish a new optic fibre network along with Wi-Fi transmission centres across the state, according to the statement released by the government after the project was approved.
The statement said that this project would open the possibility for the state to take a giant leap in the IT sector, with major opportunities in the artificial intelligence, blockchain, and start-up domains, reported Scroll.in. As many as 30,000 government offices and schools would be linked through the high-speed network, the statement added.
“In villages, local self-help groups can avail the network to conduct sales through e-commerce. At present, only about 20% mobile towers in the state are connected through optical fibre networks,” the statement read.
For last-mile connectivity, the fibre network will use the electricity network of KSEB, which has wide-ranging presence and the existing cable television networks, through which 95% of the households in Kerala can be accessed, according to KFON estimates. KFON will then collaborate with internet service providers to relay internet over the fibre network.
The pilot phase of the project, which will include establishment of a fibre optic network between the state-run IT hub ‘Technopark’ and a KFON centre in Thiruvananthapuram district, will begin in a few weeks, according to the government. The optical fibre cables for the project were recently imported from the US and a Chennai facility has started quality testing and colour coding.
Only a few countries, such as Finland, Estonia, France, Spain, Greece, and Costa Rica, have declared the internet as a basic human right. Among Indian states, Tamil Nadu and Telangana had earlier offered to provide free or low-cost internet to households for a while, but the initiatives were never taken to realise these promises.