17 Jun 2009, 0302 hrs IST, Joji Thomas Philip, ET Bureau
NEW DELHI: The communications ministry has sought an allotment of Rs 3,000 crore from the finance ministry for supporting BSNL’s wireline networks that were set up before April 2002. The DoT wants the amount to be sanctioned in the budget.
This is to compensate the state-owned telco for losses during the last fiscal after telecom regulator Trai had done away with access deficit charge regime from April 1, 2008. Prior to that, all telcos were paying 0.75% of total revenues towards ADC, which was used to support BSNL’s unviable fixedline operations in rural India. In 2007-08, BSNL got Rs 2,000 crore as ADC.
But, when hanging up on ADC, the regulator in a bid to address the concerns of BSNL , which had warned that it would be forced to discontinue all its rural fixed-line operations if the levy were to go, recommended that the government give it a subsidy of Rs 2,000 crore per annum for the next three years from the Universal Obligation Fund (USOF).
All telcos pay 5% of total revenues towards the USOF, which is dedicated to improving communication facilities in rural India. Unutilised amount in the USOF is at over Rs 20,000 crore. In March 2009, BSNL and DoT had signed an MoU to provide the state-owned operator a subsidy of Rs 6,000 core over the next three years from this fund to sustain its rural operations.
In fact, BSNL had even dragged the regulator to the telecom tribunal, but the latter refused to issue a stay on the matter. Trai had however, justified its move to do away with the ADC regime on the grounds that the total support provided to BSNL over the last couple of years under various initiatives which includes reimbursement of licence fee and spectrum charges, moratorium on payment of interest, support from Universal Service Obligation Fund(USOF), ADC funding and exemption on entry fee was about $8 billion (Rs 31,500 crore), while adding that the PSU cannot be supported in perpetuity.
In a bid to give further relief to BSNL, last year, DoT also exempted telcos from paying licence fee on fixedline telephony from licence fee enabling the state-owned operator to save Rs 1,200 crore annually.