USF Approves Rs. 2.3 Billion Project for Provision of Internet in Awaran-Lasbela

The Universal Service Fund (USF) Board of directors on Wednesday approved the Rs 2.3 billion Awaran-Lasbela broadband project. It comes under the Broadband for Sustainable Development project.

An un-served population of about 196,177 individuals in some 269 unserved Mauzas and an un-served area of 39,434 sq kms will be benefited with modern broadband facilities through this project.

The Universal Service Fund Company (USF Co) Board of directors meeting was held with the Chairperson USF Co Board and the Minister of State for IT & Telecom Anusha Rahman in the chair.

The Board of directors took an overview of the existing projects of USF pertaining to the establishment of 50 more Computer Labs in Women Empowerment Centers, Bait Ul Maal under the ICT’s for girls programme and Broadband for low income women in phase 2.

According to USF officials, the Awaran—Lasbela Lot covers 12.8 percent of the area, 6.5 percent of the total estimated population of Balochistan and includes Awaran and Lasbela districts.

This Lot shares borders with Karachi and Dadu Districts in the East, Khuzdar and Washuk in the North, Panjgoor and Kech in West and Gwadar Districts in the South.

Officials said that USF has set a target to reach all under-served and un-served areas of the country with rural telephone and e-Services (RTeS) by 2018.

Despite massive growth in telecom, vast areas of the country are still un-served. On the other hand, telecom is one of the most important tools for rapid development especially in rural areas. USF has been given the mandate to provide telecommunication services in under-served and un-served areas.

All licensed telcos contribute at the rate of 1.5 percent of their revenue towards the USF to reach such areas.

Since the inception of USF in 2007, about Rs 100 billion were contributed to the Fund by telcos of which about Rs 50 billion have already been utilized against 35 old and 7 new projects.

The USF Co Board of directors approved Rs 13 billion for financial year 2016-2017 to ensure coverage of telecommunication and internet facilities in far flung areas of the country.

Four new projects at an estimated cost of Rs 3 billion are going to be started in 2016-17 under USF to extend IT and telephone services to far-flung areas. A further Rs 9.52 billion will be spent on the ongoing projects in un-served areas of the four provinces.

New lines at a cost of Rs 2.43 billion will be laid in Balochistan, Kharaan, Washuk, Dera Bugti, Kohistan and Waziristan in the current financial year. An amount of Rs 11.94 million has been earmarked for provision of telephone services in rural areas during 2016-17.

The USF has provided telecommunication facility to 310 under-served towns and provided 5500 km of fiber optics so far. In addition, USF has established 50 computer labs in Bait-ul-Maal for women empowerment centers. USF also plans to establish 500 Tele-centers, of which 30 are already established to serve as a one stop for telecommunication services.

The Board meeting was attended by Secretary IT Rizwan Bashir Khan, Member Telecom Mudassar Hussain, Chairman PTA Dr. Ismail Shah, VP ISPs of Pakistan Azfar Manzoor, CEO Mobilink Aamir Ibrahim and CEO USF Co Faisal Sattar.

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