In the background of Kerala’s efforts in its ongoing battle to tackle the pandemic and earlier, the two devastating floods, the state continues to work relentlessly towards its first-ever ambitious project of providing free internet for all.
The Kerala Fibre Optic Network (KFON) initiative was part of the 2016 election manifesto which was further pronounced as a basic human right in 2017, upheld by the Supreme Court in its rulings in September last year.
Understanding the significance of internet and after declaring internet as a basic citizen right, the Kerala government has set out to deliver subsidised internet to all households. Kerala’s flagship proposal aims to provide free high-speed internet connection to over 20 lakh families living below the poverty line and to others at an affordable rate.
The INR 1548-crore Kerala infrastructure investment fund board project is driven by a consortium of public and private companies led by Bharat Electronics Limited and is expected to be completed by December 2020.
KFON, an equal partner and a joint venture between Kerala State IT Infrastructure Limted and Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB), has already surveyed 50,000 kilometres and is expected to complete laying the cable work for 30,000 kilometres by June this year. KFON network’s use is further augmented by installing Wi-Fi hotspots across 2000 public spaces. Once the project is complete, the Kerala government is going to allow all internet service providers and cable TV operators to use the network. Mobile towers will also be linked to the network to ensure faster mobile internet services. The fees the service providers pay for riding the network is expected to offset the internet connection cost.
The power distribution grid of the KSEB is responsible to host fibre optic cables to ensure faster and deeper internet penetration at the remotest level by providing commercial internet service at less than market rates to over 30,000 government institutions including hospitals, schools and colleges. In addition to this, the income generated from this project will also be a revenue booster for KSEB and it hopes that the internet usage observed during Covid-19 will further lead the digital momentum and prove the prominence of this project.
Free internet is a large welfare initiative that Kerala has taken to boost efforts in attracting investments and pushing digitization of government services in sectors such as healthcare, tourism and education. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan stated in a video conference last week that in a post covid-19 world, a knowledge-based economy will be critical for the state’s socio-economic development and technology will play a key role in powering innovation and generating wealth and employment opportunities.