The government’s actual spending from the Universal Services Obligations Fund (USOF) is once again expected to fall short of the Budget estimates. In FY23, the expenditure from USOF is expected to be Rs 5,500 crore compared to the Budgetary estimate of Rs 9,000 crore. This has been happening for the last six years.
The government had increased the planned expenditure from USOF by 8% in FY23 from Rs 8,300 crore, which was the actual expenditure in FY22. Out of the Rs 9,000 crore, Rs 7,000 crore was earmarked for the BharatNet project for fiber connectivity to villages, and Rs 2,000 crore was earmarked for compensation to telecom operators for creating infrastructure in rural and far-flung areas, and maintenance of village communication infrastructure.
Apart from the BharatNet project, the government recently approved a project to connect 24,680 villages in remote and difficult areas with 4G at a total cost of Rs 26,316 crore for which the fund will be allocated through USOF. Further, the scope of USOF was also extended to include funding for research and development projects for the telecom sector as part of Telecom Technology Development Fund (TTDF) scheme.
Some of the ongoing schemes from the USOF include implementation of a comprehensive telecom development plan for the North-Eastern region, connectivity to Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep via submarine optical fiber cable, connectivity in left-wing extremism zones etc.