After it made its first appearance in the 2016 election manifesto of the Left Democratic Front (LDF), the Kerala Fibre Optic Network project, or K-FON, had been running quietly in the background even as the state tackled two floods and now the deadly pandemic, coronavirus.
Set up with a vision to provide free internet access to over 20 lakh poor families, K-FON is the materialization of the idea that having access to “the internet is a basic citizen right”, Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Issac had tweeted during its inception in the summer of 2018. The project was given a deadline of December 2020.
Now, as that deadline approaches, the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) – joint partners in the K-FON project with Kerala State IT Infrastructure Limited – has begun the preliminary work – setting up a robust fibre optic cable network across the State using KSEB posts and transmission towers.
Optical fibre cables are being laid in Pathanamthitta district. Work will begin in other districts soon. All 220 KV, 119 KV avd 55 KV substations of KSEB in the state will be connected through an optical fibre cable (OFC) network. After OFC connections are linked to all 770 section offices, internet facility can be easily provided to households utilising the power lines.
A consortium of companies, led by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), has been entrusted with the work related to the laying of cables. According to the agreement, this BEL-led consortium will set up the network and maintain it for seven years.
This Rs 1028 crore project, ably assisted by the World Bank, is expected to bring down the cost of internet service drastically in the state. All government offices in the state will switch to KFON network once it is functional. All families that belong to Below Poverty Line (BPL) category will get a free internet connection.
Though the project, which started in 2016, was delayed due to some technical reasons, it is picking up speed now.
KSEB, which is facing some financial constraints, will see some income come their way once the K-FON project is up and running. KSEB is hopeful that increased internet usage observed during the lockdown period will pave way for the project gaining more acceptability on its activation.