Cabinet To Discuss Funding Of Optic Fibre Network For Villages

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New Delhi: The issue of funding for Rs 20,000 crore of National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) will come up for discussion in the Cabinet meeting on Thursday.

"The Cabinet is likely to discuss conversion of NOFN fund from non-plan expenditure to plan expenditure," sources said.

The government has already approved Rs 20,100 crore for the project in October 2011.

Through the project, the government aims to connect 2.5 lakh panchayats with broadband by 2014.

The issue of fixing various charges on spectrum, including one-time spectrum fee, though not listed in the agenda at present may also come up, sources said.

"Modification keeps happening in agenda till last day. The Cabinet may later include it," sources said.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is learnt to have prepared a Cabinet note in which it has proposed to seek a decision on the one-time fee on spectrum held by operators beyond initial allocation of 4.4 Mhz in case of GSM and above 2.5 Mhz in case of CDMA operators.

The government expects to garner around Rs 31,000 crore revenue but it has proposed to take this payment from operators in 10 annual installments, if the Cabinet approves the same.

In the matter of NOFN, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal earlier this year had requested the then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to grant the project a status of a non-Plan scheme so that it could be fast tracked.

However, Mukherjee said that with an outlay of Rs 20,100 crore over a period of three years, whether under Plan or non -Plan side, requires the same kind of administrative and financial approvals and keeping this expenditure under Plan will not cause procedural delays.

He then asked Sibal to modify the funding arrangement with the approval of Cabinet so that the expenditure on the scheme for creation of Optical Fibre Network for broadband connectivity to panchayats can be met from the Plan allocations.

Source: PTI
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