Communications and Information Technology Minister A. Raja on Friday said the Central government would soon amend the Universal Service Obligation (USO) Fund rules to make it easier for telecom companies to access over Rs.16,000-crore corpus lying with the government to push rural telephony.

“The USO Fund rules are being amended to make it more flexible and help boost in rural telephony. The new rules will give telecom companies quick access to the fund and help in increasing rural tele-density,” Mr. Raja said during a curtain raiser of India Telecom 2009, organised by FICCI here.

‘Rigid rules’

Over Rs.16,000 crore of USO Fund lie unused with the consolidated Fund of India because the rules governing the release of the fund are too rigid. The Fund was initially established with the fundamental objective of providing access to basic telegraph services in the rural and remote areas.

Subsequently, an Act was passed in 2006 -- the Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Act 2006 -- to amend the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885, to enable provision of all types of telegraph services. The rules were further amended in order to enable support for mobile services and broadband connectivity in rural and remote areas as the Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Rules 2006.

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