Japan plans to complete its nationwide optical fiber networks by March 2022 to meet the urgent need for online education, medical and other services amid the coronavirus pandemic, government officials have said.

It will bring forward an earlier plan by two years. The communications ministry has secured a total of 53 billion yen ($496 million) under extra budgets for fiscal 2020 to financially support local governments and businesses in providing long-distance, high-performance data networking and telecommunications.

(A teacher gives an online lecture to students in Minoh, Osaka Prefecture, on April 20, 2020, as their school remains closed amid the coronavirus pandemic)

In Japan, about 660,000 households, or about 1 percent, remained without access to such networks at the end of March last year, particularly those in rural areas and on remote islands.

The ministry had previously said it would reduce the number of such households to 180,000 by March 2024.

Its subsidies for municipalities and companies will cover up to 90 percent of costs to build networks necessary for online services, the officials said.