COAI asks govt to use USO Fund to benefit phone users amid COVID-19

COAI asks govt to use USO

New Delhi

COAI asks govt to use USO Fund to benefit phone users amid COVID-19, The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) on Thursday asked the government to use the Universal Service Obligation (USO) Fund which has Rs 51,500 crore lying unutilized to provide benefit to pre-paid feature phone subscribers amid the coronavirus epidemic.

Telecom operators have been taking measures to ensure that the underprivileged and needy customers have uninterrupted services in case of medical urgency.

"Despite the fact that the sector is going through a very challenging phase, telecom service providers are ensuring that the nation remains connected and functions while we continue our fight against the novel COVID-19 the outbreak," said 
COAI Director-General Rajan S Mathews.

Even on a conservative basis, the value of such benefits is more than Rs 600 crore, he said in a letter to S K Gupta, Secretary at the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
Alternate channels like bank ATMs, pharmacies as well as a wide network of grocery stores have also been activated for recharges, said Mathews.

business viability of our member operators should be given balanced consideration appreciating the fact that millions of the Indian workforce rely directly on the functioning of the telecom operators," he said.

"If the TRAI and the government feel there is a need to provide further benefit, including providing benefit to all the prepaid feature phone subscribers, then this should be provided in the form of a subsidy to the telecom sector like many other essential services. This could be adequately compensated from the USO Fund were more than Rs 51,500 crore is lying unutilized as on March 31," said Mathews.

"Expectation that the benefit (to customers in view of #COVID19) will be extended further, including to all the prepaid customers, who have the means to recharge is not appropriate," he added.

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