On Wednesday, the Union Cabinet approved the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) scheme to provision 4G-based mobile services in villages that are uncovered in aspirational districts in five states, including Odisha, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Andhra Pradesh. This new project seeks to offer mobile services in as many as 7,287 uncovered villages of 44 aspirational districts in the states mentioned above. It is estimated that this project will cost Rs 6,466 crore and include the operational expenses for a period of five years.
As per a statement by Press Information Bureau, this project will be funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund. It will be completed within a period of 18 months post-signing the Agreement. Also, it is likely to be completed by November 23.
Cabinet Approves USOF
An ET Telecom report notes, the USOF is a Rs 55,000-crore strong corpus. It was established in 2002 to provide non-discriminatory and widespread access to digital services to people living in rural and remote areas. Also, it funds the aspirational BharatNet project, which intends to cover 3.61 lakh villages via village blocks or gram panchayats.
As per the extant USOF procedures, the work related to the provision of the 4G mobile services in uncovered villages as stated above will be awarded via an open competitive bidding process.
Furthermore, the proposal seeks to further provide digital connectivity, dissemination of information and knowledge, facilitate learning, disaster management, skill upgradation and development, the establishment of enterprises and e-commerce facilities, e-governance initiatives, and provision of necessary support to educational institutes for knowledge sharing and availability of job vacancies. These will fulfil the vision of the Digital India initiative, which promotes domestic manufacturing, as well as, fulfilling the objectives of Atmanirbhar Bharat among other aspects, added the state.
Also, the Cabinet approved the continuation of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana and Road Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism Affected Areas. With this move, it intends to target the unconnected habitations in plain areas of the North East and the Himalayan States. It is estimated to connect 1,71,494 habitations. Also, Rs 1,21,419 crore is estimated to be incurred from 2021-22 to 2024-25 for completion.