To encourage more Indians to come online and use digital tools, the Indian government is now looking to give citizens free access to a catalogue of movies and other entertainment content under the BharatNet programme for rural connectivity.
According to ET, the government will offer a catalogue of more than 4000 movies to citizens through its common service centres (CSCs) or digital kiosks. Speaking about this initiative, a government official said that movies and entertainment seem to be a good proposition to get people to pay for the Internet for the first time.
These CSCs have been given the responsibility to provide last-mile internet connectivity under the BharatNet programme. CSCs offer pre-paid coupons to users who want to access the internet at their homes through either WiFi or direct-to-home fibre. In the initial phase of this project, CSCs will not charge anything for the internet coupons for movies and entertainment content. “It’s a strategy to make people get a taste of internet before driving more use-cases,” the official added.
The official further said that the programme will help those living in far-flung areas where broadband services from private players have not reached and 4G mobile connectivity is still erratic. Moreover, high-speed internet services provided under the BharatNet project are expected to give an edge to CSCs over private broadband providers who may be offering internet services in those areas.
In the pilot project, the government has tied-up with Zee-owned SugarBox Networks to offer these internet-based entertainment services to around 100 locations in the country.
Rohit Paranjpe, cofounder and CEO of SugarBox Networks, said that installing the service in far-flung areas will help in optimising the bandwidth of broadband services which will help in improving the overall experience of the users. After the free trial period of six months, SugarBox is looking to work out several pricing models such as movie streaming pack for INR 5 per day.
“The company is working on launching more services such as gaming, ecommerce and e-learning among others through its platform,” Paranjpe added.
Besides free entertainment content, the government is also offering free internet services through CSCs until March 2020. After the free trial period, the CSCs are expected to charge for these internet coupons. While the government has said that it won’t charge more than INR 500 per month, the CSCs will charge differently for different regions.
Under the BharatNet programme, the government is aiming to connect more than 250K gram panchayats or village blocks with optic fibre network across India. This mission plans to provide high-speed broadband across all the rural regions, approximately 142K villages across India by 2022.