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The Long and Winding Road to Universal Broadband-USOF India

Getting Regulation Right Blog Aspect
Dr Archana Gulati
Published Jun 30, 2014
Updated Sep 03, 2023
I have expressed reservations about the choice of methodology for OFC connectivity to rural India adopted by USOF India in earlier posts.
A network that was to cover 250000 village panchayats (local self government offices) by 2014 has not been able to cover even 50000 as of now. The new timeline is 2017. Can India afford this time overrun, let alone the inevitable cost overrun this would most likely entail?
The reasons for delay are the inability of  the public sector incumbents BSNL, Railtel and PGCIL (that constitute the implementing agency BBNL) to conclude contracts for purchase and laying of OFC. This is a commonly known problem that anyone familiar with these public sector units would have pointed out in 2012 itself. Interestingly, at that time, avoiding delay in roll out was the reason that the work was given on nomination basis to PSUs rather than bidding it out as per USOF Rules. It was said that benchmarking and tendering would lead to delay! This is in spite of USOF already having initiated two regional OFC projects through the bidding route earlier, implying availability of previous experience in benchmarking and scheme design.
Please see my earlier posts under National Broadband Plans,  Competition and Broadband Networks.
State-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, RailTel and PowerGrid Corp, which are executing the NOFN project, told the review meeting that they were facing challenges in concluding cable laying, trenching and ducting work in their respective zones, said the USOF official who was present at the NOFN review meeting. USOF now expects the three-phase broadband coverage to be concluded earliest in March 2017, which would translate in a five-year delay since the project has already suffered a two-year time ov ..
State-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, RailTel and PowerGrid Corp, which are executing the NOFN project, told the review meeting that they were facing challenges in concluding cable laying, trenching and ducting work in their respective zones, said the USOF official who was present at the NOFN review meeting. USOF now expects the three-phase broadband coverage to be concluded earliest in March 2017, which would translate in a five-year delay since the project has already suffered a two-year time ov ..
State-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, RailTel and PowerGrid Corp, which are executing the NOFN project, told the review meeting that they were facing challenges in concluding cable laying, trenching and ducting work in their respective zones, said the USOF official who was present at the NOFN review meeting. USOF now expects the three-phase broadband coverage to be concluded earliest in March 2017, which would translate in a five-year delay since the project has already suffered a two-year time ov ..
State-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, RailTel and PowerGrid Corp, which are executing the NOFN project, told the review meeting that they were facing challenges in concluding cable laying, trenching and ducting work in their respective zones, said the USOF official who was present at the NOFN review meeting. USOF now expects the three-phase broadband coverage to be concluded earliest in March 2017, which would translate in a five-year delay since the project has already suffered a two-year time ov ..