UPSC | 6 month(s) ago
The Cabinet approval for provisioning of mobile connectivity in 7,287 uncovered villages across five states will help bridge the digital divide and provide stimulus to the rural economy, industry body COAI
What USOF do ?
- Provide widespread and non-discriminatory access to quality ICT services at affordable prices to people in rural and remote areas.
- Provide an effective and powerful linkage to the hinterland thereby mainstreaming the population of rural and remote parts of the country.
- Ensure that universal services are provided in an economically efficient manner.
- Ensure that by developing hitherto unconnected areas, the benefits of inclusive growth are reaped by our nation, bringing in its wake rapid socio-economic development and improved standards of living.
For Whom ?
People in rural and remote areas of the country where ICT services are not available due to commercial non-viability on account of various combinations of reasons such as:
- Sparse population
- Remoteness of areas
- Absence of supporting infrastructure (power, road etc.)
- Low income of inhabitants
- Difficult terrain
It is here that USOF Administration steps in to provide subsidy support thereby incentivizing telecom service providers to venture forth and provide services to such target beneficiaries.
- Market Gap/failure - At current competition/market maturity, ICT Services cannot be provided
- Access Gap - Prohibitive cost of service provision or Infeasibility due to society’s expectations of 3A’s (availability, accessibility & affordability) and ‘Beyond 3A’s i.e. fairness, equity
- To bridge Rural- Urban digital divide
- Socio-Exclusion & Economic-lag of rural citizens due to Market & Access Gap
- "Lack of a business case” for telecom companies- Higher capital cost of providing telecom services in rural and remote areas; these areas also generate lower revenue due to lower population density, low income and lack of commercial activity. Thus normal market forces alone would not direct the telecom sector to adequately serve backward and rural areas.
- Government’s Constitutional Obligation to grant Services to every citizen irrespective of socio-economic considerations & geographical location
- Implementation of the guidelines laid down by Government for providing Universal Service Support;
- Suggesting such changes in policy as may be deemed necessary for implementation of Universal Service Support;
- Formulating USOF projects/schemes under the various streams provided in the Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951, in consultation with telecom service providers and various stakeholders;
- Designing an intelligent subsidy support model underlying the scheme/project, for reducing/closing the Viability Gap in provisioning of telecommunication service;
- Determining desirable subsidy level, structure & disbursement schedule after undertaking a suitable costing & modeling/benchmarking exercise and competitive tendering process;
- Designing the bidding process and carry out the tendering;
- Entering into aptly drafted Agreements with the Universal Service Providers (USPs) with incentives & disincentives to ensure the achievement of the deliverables;
- Monitoring the implementation of USOF projects/schemes and to disburse subsidy in accordance with the terms & conditions of the respective USOF Agreement;
- Accurate & timely settlement of all claims of subsidy/financial support in respect of USOF schemes
- Designing the format of various records and return to be maintained by the USPs;
- Carrying out post-implementation review of USOF projects/schemes;
- Budgeting and Audit of USOF activities;
- Interfacing with international organizations such as ITU, APT and USO funds of other nations;
- Forecasting the requirement of Universal Service Funds for each financial year and obtaining approval of Government through Department of Telecom;
- Ensuring that the prescribed Universal Service Levy is credited to the appropriate Universal Service Fund on a regular basis.