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Plan panel puts rural thrust in broadband plan

NEW DELHI: Allow full triple play to all rural broadband service provider; throw in some tax sops and ensure development of appropriate content in regional languages.

These are some of the ingredients that a Planning Commission committee, studying the development and expansion of information and communication technology (ICT), would like to have in the recipe for a nationwide rollout of broadband services in the country. Especially with a focus on the rural market.

"To effect the (nationwide) rollout, we need to light up the optical fibre and ensure development of the last mile connectivity," a Planning Commission panel in a draft report on communications, including ICT connectivity, has observed.

Planning Commission is a government think-tank on economic policies and had set up the ICT panel last year with a view to build a modern and efficient telecommunication infrastructure to meet the convergence of telecom, IT and the media.

According to the draft note --- a copy of which is available with indiantelevision.com --- circulated amongst members and some other government organisation, for a cost-effective and quick broadband rollout "wireless technology seems to be more suited."

The plan panel draft paper also suggests that appropriate spectrum should be delicenced, including the 5.15-5.35 Ghz for Wi-fi and Wi max technology.

Amongst other measures being discussed by Planning Commission as part of its mid-term review of the 10th Five-Year Plan of the telecom ICT sector, which focuses more on rural spread out, following initiatives have been highlighted: As existing service providers may not be interested in rural areas, the future model for operations may have to be based on the one suggested in the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), which includes niche players being either franchisees of the incumbent (state-controlled Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. being the dominant player) or independent operators registered with the government.

Providing necessary support from the Universal Service Obligation (USO) fund if needed for sharing part of the capital cost and bearing costs of bandwidth for the initial five years period. Providing matching funds for USO Fund to rural youth to set up broadband kiosk along with arranging concessional funds from banks. Using post offices as retail outlets for broadband kiosks/service delivery points keeping in view the countrywide reach of the Indian postal network. To attract operators, the entry and service conditions have to be promotional. The need for finalizing a legal, institutional and regulatory modalities of opening up of broadband services in rural areas quickly has been emphasized upon too.

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