All village panchayats in the country will get broadband services in the next two years, Union Communications and Information Technology Minister A. Raja said on Saturday.

“To ensure high quality connections, the services will be provided through optical fibre cables,” he said, speaking at the launch of the Central government-sponsored ‘Free mobiles to BPL households' scheme. It is being implemented through Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited on a pilot basis. The Minister indicated that the project to provide broadband services to village panchayats would be carried out at an estimated outlay of Rs.10,500 crore. The project would be supported by the Universal Service Obligation Fund. Mr.Raja gave away a total of 1,200 mobile phone sets with SIM cards to beneficiaries in the Avinashi block. “We will study the benefits of this scheme introduced on a pilot basis, before deciding to spread it across the country,” he said.

Under the scheme, mobile phone sets are distributed free only to those BPL persons who had worked under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme for a minimum of 25 days.