What is USF? What are its goals?

What is Universal Service Fund (USF)? What are its goals?

Universal Service Fund was established by the Government of Pakistan (Ministry of Information Technology) to spread the benefits of the telecom revolution to all corners of Pakistan. Universal Service Fund promotes the development of telecommunication services in un-served and under-served areas throughout the length and breadth of the country.

Three Main Programs of USF
1. Rural Telecom
2. Fiber to every Tehsil
3. Broadband for Un-served Urban Areas

Universal Service Fund was established by the Government of Pakistan (Ministry of Information Technology) to spread the benefits of the telecom revolution to all corners of Pakistan. Universal Service Fund promotes the development of telecommunication services in un-served and under-served areas throughout the length and breadth of the country.

The fund consists of contributions (1.5% of adjusted revenues) by the Telecom Operators with no Government funding involved. To utilize this fund for achievement of the targets, it was decided to follow a Corporate Model. This led to establishment of Universal Service Fund (USF) Company under Section 42 of the Companies Ordinance 1984. Universal Service Fund (USF) has an independent Board of Directors equally balanced between four members from the government and four from the private sector (industry and consumers).

USF (Universal Service Fund) Organization Structure

The main objectives of Universal Service Fund (USF) are:

* To bring the focus of telecom operators towards rural population and increase the level of telecom penetration significantly in the rural areas through effective and fair utilization of the fund.
* To improve the Broadband penetration in the country.
* To bring significant advances towards enhancement of e-services, both in rural as well as urban areas of the country.

Universal Service Fund (USF) finances spread of telecom services to previously un-served or under-served areas and makes it possible for licensed telecom operators to provide services to those areas, on normal commercial (read: competitive) terms. Telecom services include basic telephony, broadband internet, infrastructure for these services (like Optic Fiber) and Community Tele-centers (for those who cannot afford the necessary instruments/devices). Challenge before USF is to achieve the targets through an efficient and transparent competitive bidding process. Therefore, all disbursements of the fund are done through competitive bidding, encouraging full competition among telecom licensees.

The company was established in end-2006 and the first employee (the CEO) was hired in May 2007. Since 2007 USF is not just a running entity with around 40 employees, it has already started Rural Telecom Projects in un-served areas (“Lots”), for which contracts have been signed with major telecom service providers in the country  for providing telecom services. These projects have even started bearing fruits and telecom services have started in several lots.

The second program being followed is Broadband for Un-served Urban Areas. The Broadband Programme has been launched aiming at improving broadband penetration in those 2nd/3rd tier urban areas which are un-served from the Broadband perspective. Special emphasis is being paid to educational institutions, whereby the subsidy winners will be required to set-up Computer Labs with Broadband in all the high-schools and colleges in their respective areas. The broadband programme will also give boost to provision of other e-services like e-health, e-government, e-commerce etc.

The third programme aims to extend the reach of Optic Fiber Connectivity to un-served Tehsils. There are around 400 Tehsils in the country and presently 30% Tehsils do not have any fiber connectivity. Extending fiber cables to all Tehsils will help the telecom service providers in providing all kinds of telecom services to those areas. It is like building information motor-ways to all Tehsils.

Universal Service Fund (USF) has also launched special projects to establish Benazir Multi-purpose Community Telecentres and Telemedicine Networks all over the country. These projects aim at introducing and promoting e-services in the country especially where availability of PCs and computer literacy are the main issues.

Universal Service Fund (USF) is also trying its bit to contribute in other fields. The Special project ‘ICT for persons with disabilities’ involves providing ICT related equipment to institutions for special persons. The basic objective of  such special projects is to help people with disabilities overcome their disability and assist them to compete on even basis with their non-disabled peers by using Telecom and e-services.

Universal Service Fund (USF) is also encouraging its contractors to go for Alternative Energy Solutions like Solar so that at least a few hundred radio base stations start running with alternate sources of energy.

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