The Universal Service Fund (USF) Policy Committee on Monday approved annual budget of Rs 11.376 billion for financial year 2020-21 for the Fund to carry out different connectivity projects in un-served and underserved areas of the country.
Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunication Syed Amin Ul Haque Syed Amin Haque chaired 39th meeting of the Universal Service Fund (USF) Policy Committee meeting here on Monday.
Federal Secretary Ministry of IT Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui was also present in the meeting.The meeting approved the minutes of the 38th meeting of the Universal Service Fund Policy Committee meeting.
The meeting also gave approval for the USF annual budget of Rs 11.376 billion for financial year 2020-21. Universal Service Fund Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Haaris Mahmood Chaudhry briefed the chair about the USF projects for providing broadband services in unserved and underserved areas of the country.
According to documents USF has spent around Rs 66.044 billion to extend cellular, broadband internet, fibre optics and other telecommunication services to un-served or underserved areas but some areas in Balochistan as well as South Waziristan and Kurram districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa still lack access to basic telephony and mobile broadband services.
USF was created in 2007 to stretch cellular, broadband internet, fibre optics and other telecommunication services to un-served or underserved areas. All telecom companies have been contributing 1.5 percent of their revenues to the USF.
Officials revealed that USF has around Rs 40 billion in balance and spent Rs66.044 billion since its inception for expansion of telecommunication services to the under-served and un-served areas of the country.
They maintained that despite massive growth, there were many areas that remained underserved. The challenges, they asserted, that the USF faced were rugged terrains, sparse population, harsh weather, lack of electricity, no backhaul, and poor logistics as well as security clearance. Some of these areas include South Waziristan, North Waziristan, Orakzai, Kurram, Jhal Magsi, Dera Bugti, Nasirabad and Jaffarabad that are not being catered.
According to the sources, the areas which do not support business plans of telecom operators, the government subsidises projects there to reach the under-served and un-served.
The Federal Minister for IT appreciated the USF projects and gave direction for timely completion of projects and in transparent manner. He directed USF management to accelerate initiatives for providing high-speed broadband services across the country.
He said that IT and Telecom projects are vital for completion of digital Pakistan vision. He said that in view of coronavirus internet availability is utmost important for online study and working. Meeting was also attended by the officers of the Ministry of IT and Telecommunication.