Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha has said that the government’s BharatNet fibre-optic cable initiative has shifted its focus from network deployment to service delivery, as it comes close to reaching nearly 50% of the nation’s gram panchayats (town/village-level administrative divisions). The Economic Times cites the official as saying that the state-owned infrastructure provider Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) would now concentrate on service delivery and maintenance. The minister added that the project is expected to achieve its goal of connecting 250,000 gram panchayats by end-March 2019. Following a series of delays, Phase I of the project connected the first 100,000 gram panchayats by the end of 2017, following which the minister invited state-level administrations to implement the rollout themselves and sought participation from private operators. To help accelerate the rollout, meanwhile, the government has also begun work on establishing a National Fibre Authority (NFA). Mr Sinha went on to say that the government is working to ensure fibre access is deployed to public institutions such as schools, healthcare centres, police stations via the universal service obligation (USO) fund.