IT ministry working out modalities to end digital divide
ISLAMABAD (March 27 2008): The Ministry of Information Technology is working out modalities to utilise Universal Services Fund (USF) for the proliferation of broadband services to bridge the gap of digital divide, it is learnt. Sources said that in terms of broadband facilities Pakistan was underserved due to many reasons including affordability.
As a result, despite issuing licenses the 2004 policy designed to expand broadband did not work as hardly 112,000 subscribers including 22,000 of pre-2004 were achieved against 200,000 subscribers target by 2007.
The USF polled by the telecom operators for providing subsidy to the companies that provide telecom services in rural areas. The companies will be given incentives in the form of subsidy from the USF fund for the proliferation of broadband services.
They said a mechanism is being evolved to improve the broadband proliferation because Pakistan with 0.1 million subscribers of 160 million population was globally ranked at lowest level. Moreover, the broadband proliferation could bring about economic development by enhancing productivity.
A USF company wants one per cent penetration by 2010 that mean over 1.5 million broadband users have to be added up in less than two years which is a gigantic task for the ministry.
Three options were discussed that included no broadband subsidy and everything should be left on the market, broadband subsidy should be handled as part of basic telecom USFC lots and the last one that there should be separate broadband subsidy lots. A separate broadband subsidy will be offered, rather than leaving everything and or handling subsidy as part of basic telecom USFC services, to connect maximum people to the internet by next one and half year.
It was also suggested that to achieve 4 to 5 per cent broadband penetration by 2013 an auction process similar to rural telephony model be adopted. The auction process would start with bidding for a region followed by contract signing within six weeks of the bidding date. It has been realised that larger number of target broadband connections would require longer time, as such the following target time lines have been proposed.
Source: Business Recorder