• Digital Communications Commission (DCC), the highest decision-making body for the telecom sector.
• It has given an in-principle approval to monetise 2.5 lakh km of fibre laid under the government’s flagship BharatNet programme, by leasing or selling the assets to private players.
About Bharatnet Programme
• BharatNet is a project of national importance to establish, a highly scalable network infrastructure accessible on a non-discriminatory basis, to provide on demand, affordable broadband connectivity of 2 Mbps to 20 Mbps for all households and on demand capacity to all institutions, to realise the vision of Digital India, in partnership with States and the private sector.
• The entire project is being funded by Universal service Obligation Fund (USOF), which was set up for improving telecom services in rural and remote areas of the country. The objective is to facilitate the delivery of e-governance, e-health, e-education, e-banking, Internet and other services to the rural India.
About Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF)
• Apart from the higher capital cost of providing telecom services in rural and remote areas, these areas also generate lower revenue due to lower population density, low income and lack of commercial activity. Thus normal market forces alone would not direct the telecom sector to adequately serve backward and rural areas.
• Keeping in mind the inadequacy of the market mechanism to serve rural and inaccessible areas on one hand and the importance of providing vital telecom connectivity on the other, most countries of the world have put in place policies to provide Universal Access and Universal Service to ICT.
• The New Telecom Policy – 1999 (NTP’99) provided that the resources for meeting the Universal Service Obligation (USO) would be raised through a ‘Universal Access Levy (UAL)’, which would be a percentage of the revenue earned by the operators under various licenses.
• The Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Act, 2003 giving statutory status to the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) was passed by both Houses of Parliament in December 2003. The Fund is to be utilized exclusively for meeting the Universal Service Obligation.
About Digital Communication Commission
• The Telecom Commission was set up in 1989 by the Government of India with administrative and financial powers of the Government of India to deal with various aspects of Telecommunications.
• The Government, has re-designated the ‘Telecom Commission’ as the ‘Digital Communications Commission’ in 2018
• The Digital Communications Commission consists of a Chairman, four full time members, who are ex-officio Secretaries to the Government of India in the Department of Telecommunications and four part time members who are the Secretaries to the Government of India in the concerned Departments.
• The Secretary to the Government of India in the Department of Telecommunications is the ex-officio Chairman of the Digital Communications Commission.
• The full-time Members of the Digital Communications Commission are Member (Finance), Member (Production), Member (Services) and Member (Technology).
• The part-time Members of the Digital Communications Commission are Cheif Executive Officer, NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog, Secretary (Department of Economic Affairs), Secretary ( Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology) and Secretary (Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion).
• Formulating the policy of Department of Telecommunications for approval of the Government;
• Preparing the budget for the Department of Telecommunications for each financial year and getting it approved by the Government; &
• Implementation of Government’s policy in all matters concerning telecommunication.
Mains Paper 2: Governance
Prelims level: Bharatnet Programme