The Union budget next month is likely to provide a thrust to rural telephony.
Communications and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has written to finance minister Arun Jaitley, seeking extra budgetary support of Rs 7,000 crore for projects under the Universal Service Obligation (USO) Fund, including availability of mobile services in naxal-affected states.
The government collects USO Fund by levying cess on revenue earned by operators from services, which in turn is used for funding telecom projects in rural areas. The ministry also wants to use the funds for enhancing connectivity in the North East as well as the panchayat level.
"At present, there is no mobile communication services in 2,199 left wing extremism (LWE)-affected locations in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh. LWE will provide connectivity, we have made a provision of Rs 587.78 crore," Prasad said in the letter.
The ministry has also sought Rs 77.62 crore as subsidy support for increasing optical fibre cable-based network in the North East and another Rs 1,250 crore to offer high-speed direct line to rural households in 1,685 taluks (a group of several villages organised for revenue purposes).
"You would appreciate that all the schemes are in the national interest… we have received only Rs 3,538 crore. We need additional fund of Rs 6,997 crore," Prasad's letter to Jaitley says.
Prasad also highlighted the ministry's plans to connect all the 250,000 village panchayats at a cost of Rs 8,500 crore.