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NOFN Veering Away from its Core Objective?

Getting Regulation Right Blog Aspect
Dr Archana Gulati
Published Nov 06, 2013
Updated Sep 03, 2023
In a post titled BBNL and Competition Neutral Broadband Funding I had mentioned the proposal to make India’s USF funded rural broadband back haul provider into a service provider.
In an article from the Economic Times it is now learned that BBNL is likely to acquire only an Internet Service Provider license. While this is better than it trying to become a unified service provider it is not what a state funded broadband back haul network is supposed to do. It would become difficult to regulate BBNL’s wholesale bandwidth and ensure a level playing field vis-a-vis its own service provider arm. 
As regards the lack of interest among ISPs to venture into rural areas to provide internet, I would not agree with the justification provided in the article. The whole idea of NOFN/BBNL was to eliminate the high speed and bandwidth back haul issue and to allow private and public players to provide last mile access (with this problem taken care off). If the Government was to provide the latter too, the funding may as well have gone to the incumbent BSNL by way of budgetary support instead of creating another PSU monopoly.
A proper study and public consultation process would be in order before assuming a lack of interest  in tapping the rural market among India’s multiple  ISP’s. (392 as per Department of Telecom’s website). There are competition issues here which invariably mean issues realting to long term health of the sector.