Broadband for All Panchayats by 2016 Too Ambitious a Target

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Old 20-Dec-2014
Broadband for All Panchayats by 2016 Too Ambitious a Target

As government targets to expand broadband connectivity to all 2.5 lakh panchayats of the country by 2016, telecom regulator Trai chief Rahul Khullar Thursday termed it as a very "ambitious" target, saying believing in it would be like "deluding ourselves".
"Right now we are sort of deluding ourselves by saying we will achieve 100 percent and all of you know exactly what has been achieved," Trai Chairman Rahul Khullar said during an event on broadband.

"Why we set ourselves most ambitious target, fail on it ... if you set for yourself an impossible target, you are doomed to fail," the Trai Chairman said.

Khullar said that the government should adopt a more practical approach in doing the easier things first.

"Is it necessary to reach out to all those 2.5 lakh gram panchayats today or tomorrow or by some timeline of December 31, 2016. Why are we being not practical in getting the easier things done first, if its simple to cover 50 percent of the population, do the 50 percent, than go on for the more ambitious target."

He said it is simpler to first connect the metros because that is easier and than go to cities and taluks in a gradual manner.

Government's ambitious National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) aims to provide high-speed broadband connectivity to 2.5 lakh gram panchayats by December 2016 and the estimated cost of the project is over Rs. 20,100 crore.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) chief said as of today 89 percent of all districts have at least one private operator and 73 percent have two which means 75 percent roughly are already connected by private operators.

If we want to connect 2.5 lakh panchayats "than isn't it a good place to start by looking at 70 percent and 62 percent which are already covered," he added.

Khullar also said the government should work on developing applications in order to make e-governance projects like e-health and e-education successful.

"Name one application that exists, which is from a government source, leave aside the land records that is being done in Karnataka, tell me where is e-health and e-education in terms of just one application or product that is available ...I think these are matters which we should not delude us," he added.

Regarding the upcoming spectrum auction, Khullar said the reserve price should be set at a reasonable level and let the market forces decide the final price of the value of spectrum.

He also reiterated its stand that enough spectrum should be made available to the auctions.

Bharti Enterprises Vice Chairman Akhil Gupta said the telecom industry is not against auction of spectrum but the government should not create artificial scarcity for the airwaves which drives the prices, and enough spectrum should be made available.

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