The development works on various telephony and broadband projects have been resumed once again after being halted for past eleven months on the dysfunctional of Universal Service Funds (USF), official sources told ProPakistani.
The funds of Rs. 3 billion have been transferred to the accounts of the operators, who had completely stopped their operations on various telephony and broadband development projects owing to unavailability of funds.
The step was taken in the meeting of USF’ s board of directors meeting held recently, first time after March 2010, under the chairmanship of Sardar Aseff Ahemd.
CEO USF Pervaiz Iftikhar, then Secretary IT Abdul Rauf and other members attended the meeting.
The board has taken decision to complete independent audit of USF at the earliest, which could not be conducted since no board meeting was held meanwhile in the presence of then minister In-charge Sardar Latif Khan Khosa. The USF’s audit was further delayed due to the absence of minister and secretary.
Currently, as high as Rs 15. billion development projects and schemes had been allocated to different telecom operators by USF. Out of which, Rs. 7 billion have been transferred to them for the continuation of development projects.
The telecom operators contribute 1.5 percent of their annual gross revenue to USF as per rule of their licenses in accordance with Telecom Policy. These operators have submitted nearly Rs. 34 billion as their share so far on the same account.
USF staff members heaved a sigh of relief after the board approved budget for USF and its employees are assured for their salaries and other long pending dues sources added.
USF and its employees were become victims of tug of war between political leadership and bureaucracy as they were not paid salaries since July 2010 because Sardar Latif Khosa, then Minister In-charge, held the in abeyance the company and its functions, and did not approve the budget of the company for next fiscal year 2010-11.
The board of directors also gave green signal to increase the annual budget of USF from Rs. 140 million in order to meet the expense required to run its expanding projects in different parts of the country.
USF is an exceptionally successful organization not in the country but in the world with its tremendous planning and development projects to promote telephony and internet services in far-flung and rural areas.
Since its inception in 2007, it has aggressively pursued different projects in under-served and un-served areas of the country.
Through USF, telecom services were made available to approximately 4.3 million people in 3,400 previously-un-served villages and work is in progress for another 2,700 villages where 2.5 million people live.
In last three years, USF made broadband services available to 15.5 Million People in urban/semi-urban areas in over 200 cities.
Nearly 150,000 customers attained broadband services in more than 200 cities. Note that in these 200+ cities there was no broadband in the beginning of 2009.
Under the head of special projects, USF made various services available to 200,000 people through pilot telecenters + many more benefitting through ICT facilities for disabled persons at Shifa Eye International Hospital and Foundation for Fighting Blindness.
Telecom companies, with help of USF installed total around 500 cell sites, out of which more than half have been installed and technical audit of 235 has been done.
The USF focuses on four kinds of telecom and IT services – Rural Telecom Programme, Broadband Programmes, Optic Fibre Cable Projects, and Special Projects.
So far, there are 10 contracts costing Rs 4.5 billion signed for 6,118 un-served Mauzas (places) in 39 Districts to be provided with Basic Telecom Services.
12 contracts worth Rs 6.2 billion were signed for 434,750 Broadband connections to be provided in 44 un-served districts.
Besides, Rs 4.5 billion worth 5 projects were allocated for different operators for 5,324 kms of Optic Fiber Cable to be laid covering 80 un-served Tehsil Headquarters and Towns.
USF had also launched conversion of 11 existing Rural Computer Centers into Telecenters as Pilot Project.