In news- The Union Cabinet has approved the utilisation of the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) for provisioning of mobile services in Uncovered Villages of Aspirational Districts of five states.
- The Project envisages to provide 4G based mobile services in the 7,287 uncovered villages of 44 Aspirational Districts across five States.
- The five states include Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra & Odisha.
- The cost of the project is Rs 6,466 crore including operational expenses for 5 years.
About Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF)-
- USOF is a fund under the Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communication.
- USOF generated by Universal Service Levy(USL) which is collected from the Service Providers at a defined percentage of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) as a component of Licence Fee.
- The collections of USL are credited to the Consolidated fund of India and allocation of funds to USOF is through Parliamentary approval.
- The balances to the credit of the Fund does not lapse at the end of the financial year.
- It aims to provide a balance between the provision of Universal Service to all uncovered areas, including the rural areas.
- The concept of Universal Service Obligation was originated by Rowland Hill in 1837, with his postal reforms, which included uniform rates across the United Kingdom.
- The New Telecom Policy (NTP) 1999 of the Department of Telecom, GoI had Universal Service as one of its main objectives.
- Further, NTP envisaged the implementation of USO for rural and remote areas would be undertaken by all fixed service providers who shall be reimbursed from the USOF.
- The Universal Service Support Policy came into effect in 2002.
- The Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Act, 2003 gave statutory status to USOF.
- There are 24 partners for USOF including Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, Bharti Airtel Limited, Tata TeleServices Limited, Reliance Communications Limited, Reliance Telecom Limited, Aircel, Vodafone, etc
Objectives of USOF-
- Economic: Network extension & stimulate uptake of the ICT services.
- Social: Mainstreaming the underserved & un-served areas/groups by bridging the Access Gap.
- Political: To enable citizens to exercise their political rights in an informed way.
- Constitutional: Equitable distribution of the fruits of the telecom/digital revolution and fair allocation of national resources (pooled USO levy) via targeted subsidies.