News Source: Dawn
Writer: Jamal Shahid
ISLAMABAD: The Universal Service Fund (USF) will be providing mobile and internet services in parts of Khyber, Mohmand and Bajaur agencies and North Waziristan once the security forces have completed counter-insurgency operations and restored normality in these areas, a Senate body was told on Wednesday
An operation is already underway in South Waziristan, USF Chief Technical Officer Asif Kamal told the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication.
The committee was meeting for a briefing on completed and new projects, funding and future USF initiatives. The committee was chaired by PPP Senator Robina Khalid.
Under the IT ministry, USF has been mandated to spend 1.5pc of the charges collected from cellular mobile operators and provide mobile and broadband facilities such as 3G and 4G services in far-off areas that are under-served or un-served.
The committee was told that in the last 10 years, USF has committed Rs57 billion of which Rs41 billion have been used for numerous projects to connect remote cities, towns and villages with telephony.
Fresh surveys were required to assess telephony needs in the Khyber, Mohmand and Bajaur agencies. A total of 6,725 mauzas have been covered to date, increasing the tele-density of the country to 74.1pc.
Mr Kamal told the committee that the military had assured USF of access in North Waziristan.
“Due to the security situation, the little connectivity in Bajaur has also been suspended indefinitely. After the operations, the populations in these regions have relocated and another assessment has to be done to see what the new requirements are. We are all set to begin as soon as we have security clearance,” Mr Kamal said.
Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (F) Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri drew the IT ministry’s attention to his area, Kalat, where internet services have been suspended for the last six or eight months.
“Security forces are not conducting operations there, then why have services been suspended,” the senator asked.
According to IT ministry member Mudassar Hussain, internet services were suspended on the request of security forces to maintain law and order, which is a common exercise.
The committee was told that USF had planned to cover 10.1 million people in the current fiscal year by connecting more than 4,000 mauzas in Bahawalpur, Rahimyar Khan, Hyderabad and Dadu.
USF has also planned next generation broad band infrastructure for un-served and under-served segments on motorways and national highways.