CM Vijayan launches KFON project, Kerala’s own internet; will end digital dividetext_fields
Thiruvananthapuram: Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan formally launched the state government’s Kerala Fibre Optic Network (KFON) project touted as the state’s own internet at a grand event at the Assembly House on Monday.
The concept of affordable internet for all was conceived six years ago. Chief Minister Vijayan, dedicated KFON to the state, saying that it was the realisation of a dream that many had thought unrealisable.
“The state is implementing KFON to ensure that the internet as a basic right does not remain on paper. The state is now providing basic infrastructure to take high-speed internet to all people,” Vijayan said at the launch.
The project which is aimed at providing free internet connections to 20 lakh economically backward families and affordable internet for others, was delayed by the years of pandemic. Once realised, it would help eliminate the digital divide, said the ministers of the state present for the launch.
By ensuring high speed and quality internet service, KFON strengthens Kerala’s digital advancement. He said that regardless of urban and rural differences it was decided to implement the project with the aim of ensuring internet for all and that the project was implemented as promised. Progressive activities like these can transform Kerala into a knowledge economy.
“India is a country where the most number of internet shutdowns happen. There have been more than 700 such shutdowns in the last 10 years. It is in such a country that a state is working to provide internet for all,” CM Pinarayi said, taking obvious digs at the Union government's moves of cutting internet in strife-hit states such as Kashmir.
He also cited reasons to prove why the project was necessary. There have been critics, he said, who asked what was the need for ‘internet for all’, when everyone has a smartphone these days.
“But the percentage of people with internet access in India is less than 50. Only 33% of the women and 30% of the tribal population have internet access. In villages, it is 25%. KFON is a way to end this digital divide,” Pinarayi said.
By ensuring connectivity for all from the tourists who visit the state to the tribal people in hilly areas, no one will be left behind, the CM said.
In the real ‘Kerala story’, everyone will be part of the changing world, he added, in a reference to a recent Hindi film of the same title which many criticized to be a propaganda against the state.
The affordable internet will also help the new work culture that developed post-COVID-19 – such as the practices of Work from home, work near home and work away from home have gained popularity. If our youths have to benefit from these emerging working styles, there should be better internet connectivity across the state. The KFON is meant to ensure that facility,” the Chief Minister said.
At the time of the launch, the KFON has been made available in more than 2,000 houses and 17,412 government offices. The aim is to cover 20 lakh families and 30,000 government offices.
The free connections are just one part of this ambitious project, and the rest of it will be monetised. In the first phase, however, the focus is on reaching BPL families who will be provided connections for free. Each household will get 1.5 GB of data per day at 15 Mbps speed, The Hindu reported.
Santhosh Babu, KFON project head, described the timelines of the project from when it was first conceptualised in 2017, taken up by BHEL in 2019 and delayed by COVID-19, to now when nearly 97% of the groundwork is over.
“In effect, it is the work of three years, laying the cables, bringing teams from the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) and others into the picture, and monetising the network,” he said.
In the first phase of the project, the Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited (KSITIL) was funded by the government and the KIIFB. In the second phase, when the six-member team of KFON took over the project, they also had to find a way to monetise it, through charging the offices for internet use, leasing internet lines, setting up IPTV or OTT platforms.
Across the state, there are 375 Points of Presence (POP) – points that connect one or more networks to each other. This will enable the connection to flow even if one network is broken. “The up-time will be 99.9% (unbroken connection) and if at all a cut comes, it should be resolved within four hours,” Santhosh added.