KFON heralds public internet in Kerala
On June 5, the day of its launch, connectivity was provided to 17,412 government offices and 2,105 BPL houses, and a cable network was laid down to connect 9,000 houses.
The Kerala government, earlier this week, launched the Kerala Fibre Optical Network (KFON), thus becoming the first state in India to have its own internet service. Kerala was also the first state to declare the right to the Internet as a basic right.
One of the flagship projects envisaged during the first term of the Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government, KFON aims to reduce the digital divide by ensuring high-speed broadband internet access to all houses and government offices. In the first stage, the state government aims to provide connectivity to 30,000 government offices and 14,000 BPL families in the state for free. On June 5, the day of its launch, connectivity was provided to 17,412 government offices and 2,105 BPL houses, and a cable network was laid down to connect 9,000 houses.
Though KFON is being portrayed as the CPM’s commitment to the public sector, it may be noted that KFON infrastructure will also benefit private service providers as the cable network will be accessible to them too.
While it is indeed an act of showcasing the Left Government’s alternative model of development, what prompted the government is the fact that the existing telecom companies have only limited infrastructure in rural areas, and they are offering only limited bandwidth. And private companies are reluctant to enhance connectivity infrastructure as it will not be profitable for them. One major highlight of KFON is that it will ensure internet connection for 20 lakh families below the poverty line. In the first phase, as many as 14,000 BPL families would get access to high-speed internet free of cost. With time, 100 BPL families in each of the state’s 140 assembly constituencies will be selected for this scheme.
KFON is also a classic example of what can be achieved if the state and Union governments work together. The Union Department of Telecommunications quickly provided Infrastructure Provider (category one) licence and the Internet Service Provider licence (category B) to KFON. This IP licence allowed the network to obtain fibre optic lines, towers, duct space, network, and other infrastructural facilities to establish an optic fibre network. As the state government has set the ball rolling, it must ensure it achieves the target on time. For, the project is expected to accelerate the state’s journey towards becoming a numero uno knowledge-based economy.