The Kerala Cabinet on Wednesday approved the fibre optic network project to provide free high-speed internet connection to around 20 lakh families below the poverty line in the state, The Indian Express reported. The Rs 1,548-crore project will be completed by December 2020, state Finance Minister Thomas Isaac said on Thursday.

Isaac said internet connection was being made a “basic citizen right”.

The scheme will be set up by Kerala State Electricity Board Limited and Kerala State IT Infrastructure Limited. The financial assistance for the project will be provided by Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board. A consortium of firms led by Bharat Electronics Limited has bagged the tender for the project. Internet service providers and cable television operators can also join the optic fibre network to provide services.

The fibre optic network was one of the major announcements by the Left Democratic Front in the run-up to the Assembly elections in 2016. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has been reportedly working overtime to get more investors in Kerala to ramp up the state’s technical infrastructure for other big projects.

The state government in a statement said the decision would open the possibility for Kerala to take a giant leap in the IT sector, with major opportunities in the artificial intelligence, blockchain, and startup domains. As many as 30,000 government offices and schools would be linked through the high-speed network, it added. “In villages, local self-help groups can avail the network to conduct sales through e-commerce,” the statement said. “At present, only about 20% mobile towers in the state are connected through optical fibre networks.”

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