Another first for Kerala: State launches own Internet service
Raising the slogan of ‘Internet a basic right’, Kerala took a big leap in communication technology and e-governance by launching K FON- Kerala Fibre Optical Network recently.
With approval from the Centre, Kerala has become a pioneering state in establishing state-owned internet service provider network.
K FON is an ambitious project announced by the previous LDF Government in the 2017 Budget speech with the objective of bridging the digital divide by universalising internet service. The target is to provide free Internet connection to 20 lakh economically backward families and at subsidised rates for others.
A partnered venture with Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) and Kerala State Information Technology (KSIT) Infrastructure Ltd, K FON is envisaged to connect 30,000 government offices, including schools and hospitals with a fibre route length of 35,000 kms. According to K FON authorities, the project has so far established connection with 21,886 government offices.
The Department of Telecommunications has approved K FON as an authorised ISP and granted category ‘B’ unified licence as an ISP, a press statement issued by the Chief Minister’s office stated. “Kerala has become the first state having an ISP licence and an internet connectivity project run by the Government,” the press release stated.
The Kerala State Electricity Board already had a system in place – the Reliable Communication and Data Acquisition Network (RCDAN). This is a project laying optical fibre cable over EHT lines connecting their substations to help improve their grid communication and remote management concerning safety and security. The Kerala government decided to implement the project utilizing KSEBL infrastructure to set up the network infrastructure by leveraging its transmission and distribution networks and making both KSITIL and KSEBL equal partners in the joint venture for the project which gave birth to K FON.
Partnering with KSEB, and making use of their optical fibre network, has reduced the burden of taking fresh approvals. KSEB benefits by providing a free fibre connectivity network to all its offices across the State, in addition to a 40 % profit share.
So, is K FON a company directly providing household internet connections? Certainly not.
K FON is a service provider targeting the universalization of Internet service to bridge the digital divide. The optical fibre cabling to government offices will be directly done by K FON, other beneficiaries will have to rely on the local service providers availing the infrastructure facility provided by K FON. More than 200 local cable operators and Multiple Service Operators have already come on board.
The history of e-governance in Kerala dates back to the 90s. The first IT park was established in 1990. The single window system for public services which was named FRIEDNS (Fast, Reliable, Instant, Efficient Network for Disbursement of Services) was launched in 2000, the first of its kind in the country. In a recent report submitted by the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG) of the central government, Kerala is ranked top in providing public services by using information technology.
According to a report released by Union Minister Jithendra Singh on June 11 2022, Kerala has also topped the category of Single Window Access to Information and Service Links and had the highest overall compliance score across all States and Union Territories.