July 16, 2020
By Ahmed Saeed
Federal Minister for Information and Technology Amin ul Haque has said that the government is trying to provide 3G/4G internet service to unserved areas of the country including Gilgit Baltistan (GB), Azad Kashmir and former FATA through Universal Service Fund.
The USF was established in 2006 by the Government of Pakistan (Ministry of Information Technology) to spread the benefits of the telecom revolution to all corners of Pakistan. USF promotes the development of telecommunication services in un-served and under-served areas throughout the country.
According to information provided by the website of the USF, the fund consists of contributions (1.5% of adjusted revenues) by the Telecom Operators with no Government funding involved.
Speaking to Munizae Jahangir, (Executive Producer of Voicepk.net) Haque said that he is fully aware of the plight of the students of GB and Azad Kashmir due to unavailability of the internet and he has asked Special Communication Organization (SCO) to resolve the issues regarding the connectivity.
The SCO is an army-run organization that responsible to develop, operate, and maintain all telecom services in Azad Jammu & Kashmir and GB.
Pakistan Peoples Party’s Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said that he remained closely associated with the students during the lockdown and he fully supports their demands.
He said that the federal government should have allocated extra funds for the education in the budget but instead, they cut the Higher Education Commission’s (HEC) budget.
PML-N senator Javed Abbasi vowed to raise this issue in the parliament and the relevant standing committees. He said that he will ask the government to apprise the parliament about the steps taken by the authorities to resolve the issue.
In the last few days, the residents of GB have protested against the SCO for maintaining a monopoly over communication services in the area. The people of GB have demanded the government to allow other telecommunication companies so that they get the connection of their own choice.
But according to Haque, other private companies are not interested in starting their operation in GB.
“Different telecommunication companies run on a commercial basis, so if we request them to provide their services to a hill in Gilgit where few hundred people are living, they refuse to do so by saying that is not financially viable for them,” Haque said.
In 2018, a private telecommunication company was allowed by PTA to start 3G/4G services in the GB and Azad Kashmir but the SCO filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court and GB Chief Court (GBCC) against the PTA’s decision.
The GBCC set aside PTA’s order and allow the SCO to start 3G/4G services on a trial basis in Azad Kashmir and GB.