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CSC to give free net via BharatNet till March: Ravi Shankar Prasad

Rewari (Haryana): Common Service Centres (CSCs) will give internet free to individuals and institutions through BharatNet – a countrywide optical fibre network till March next year, Union minister for electronics and IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad, said on Wednesday. “We have already connected 1.3 lakh gram panchayats through BharatNet. Our target is to take this to 2.5 lakh panchayats. To promote utilisation of BharatNet services, we will provide WiFi free in all villages connected through BharatNet till March 2020,” Prasad said, while inaugurating a Digital Village – Gurawara, in Rewari.

CSCs, which have a network of 360,000 centres, have got permission to manage BharatNet’s last mile deployment in 120,000 panchayats. This means that in the panchayats where BharatNet has reached, the CSC will be responsible for connecting it to institutions such as schools and primary health centres by extending the necessary fibre infrastructure. It will also enable residents to access high-speed broadband, either through WiFi or fibre cable. Prasad also said that CSCs will offer banking services across all its centres.

CSCs recently tied up with HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank to offer all banking services such as account opening, loan disbursal and withdrawals. Dinesh Tyagi, CEO of CSC SPV, said its mandate is to connect five institutions in an area with the BharatNet network, for which the cost will be partially borne by the Department of Telecom. After the free services end in March, providing internet services through BharatNet will be a good revenue generator for CSCs, he said.

Despite mobile internet having a wide reach, there is still demand for high-speed broadband in farflung areas where private telecom operators are still to make inroads, Tyagi said. “Even if the CSCs sell 100,000 coupons for Rs 200 on a monthly basis, it will be huge for us,” he said. This will also help in extending other internet-driven services such as telemedicine and education to drive the Digital Village programme. Currently, there are 700 Digital Villages in the country and the government has set a target of establishing 100,000 such villages in the country.

Source: Economic Times