Accelerating the pace of socio-economic development of the North East region of India, Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) has inked an agreement with Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) for making available high quality and high-speed internet access to the northeastern states.
Under the agreement, a 10 Gigabytes per second(Gbps) International Bandwidth will be hired for internet connectivity to Agartala from Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Limited (BSCCL), Bangladesh via Cox Bazar/Kuakata.
Apart from this, USOF will play a major role by extending the financial support to BSNL for a span of three years for hiring the International Bandwidth.
Commenting on the landmark development, Union Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw tweeted, “Citizens will get high-speed internet connectivity for better access to e-services in the North-Eastern states.”
The availability of high-speed internet will not bring better access to e-services but it will also help the citizens of the region by providing services like digital governance, e-education, e-health, e-commerce, e-banking among others.
Notably, the move aims at providing widespread access to quality Information Communication Technologies (ICT) services at reasonable prices to people in far-flung and remote areas of the country. Further, the internet connectivity will ensure that by developing unconnected areas, the benefits of inclusive growth are reaped by India along with rapid socio-economic development and improved standards of living.
Understanding the importance of USOF
Keeping in mind the inadequacy of the market mechanism to serve rural people along with the importance of providing vital telecom connectivity, USOF provides financial support for the provision of telecom services in commercially unviable rural and remote areas of India.
USOF is an attached office of the Department of Telecom and is headed by the Administrator, USO Fund appointed by the union government.
As per the New Telecom Policy – 1999 (NTP’99), a Universal Service Obligation (USO) was created through a ‘Universal Access Levy (UAL)’, which would be a percentage of the revenue earned by the operators under various licenses. The Universal Service Support Policy came into effect on 1st April 2002.
Further, the Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Act, 2003 provides statutory status to the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), which was passed by both Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament in December 2003. According to the Indian Telegraph Act 1885 (as amended in 2003, 2006, and 2008), the fund is to be used exclusively for meeting the Universal Service Obligation.