Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: In two major policy decisions, the Centre on Thursday decided to waive the licence fee on rural landline phones besides reducing levy towards the “universal service obligation” (USO) fund to boost telephone and broadband services in villages. The Telecom Commission, the policy-making body under the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), has decided to waive the licence fee on rural landline telephones in an effort to promote telephone use in rural areas.

Rs. 200 crore waiver

The decision is also intended to give a boost to e-governance through provision of more broadband services in villages, thus reducing the digital divide, said an official statement. The waiver would amount to Rs. 200 crore annually.

Similarly, the Telecom Commission has decided to reduce the levy towards the USO fund from the present 5 per cent to 3 per cent of the adjusted ground revenue (AGR) for those telecom service providers who have already covered more than 95 per cent of rural areas. The move would force private telecom operators to boost their rural connectivity to avail of this new benefit.

The USO fund has been set up to create infrastructure support in rural and remote areas for providing telecommunications service to people at affordable and reasonable prices.