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CSCs to offer free Wifi till March 2020

Rewari, Haryana: Common service centers will provide free internet to individuals and institutions through BharatNet till March of next year, Union minister for electronics and IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad announced 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 Bharat net till March 2020,” said Prasad while inaugurating Digital Village Gurawara in Rewari.

Currently, CSCs which have a network of 3,60,000 centres have got permission to manage BharatNet’s last mile deployment in 1,20,000 panchayats. This means that in the panchayats where BharatNet — countrywide optical fibre network — has reached, the CSC will be responsible for connecting it to the institutions such as schools and primary health centers have in the village by extending the necessary fibre infrastructure. It will also enable residents to access the high speed broadband either through wi-fi or fibre connectivity.

Prasad also said that CSCs will also offer banking services across all its centers. CSCs have recently tied up with HDFC bank, ICICI and Axis bank to offer all banking services such account opening, loan disbursal, withdrawals etc.

Dinesh Tyagi, CEO of CSC SPV said that their 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, said Tyagi. He added that despite mobile internet having a wide reach in the country, there is still demand for high speed broadband in far flung areas where private operators are still to take their networks.

“Even if the CSCs sell 1,00,000 coupons for RS. 200 on a monthly basis, it will be huge for us,” said Tyagi.

This would 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 1,00,000 digital villages in the country.

Digital Villages offer several entrepreneurial opportunities such as LED bulb, sanitary napkins manufacturing along with digitally driven services such as banking, education, etc.

Source: Economic Times