12:00 AM, August 11, 2014 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:53 AM, March 08, 2015

Govt urged to consult with telcos before finalising rule for Social Obligation Fund

Govt urged to consult with telcos before finalising rule for Social Obligation Fund

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Abdullah Mamun

Mobile operators have urged the government to discuss with the industry stakeholders before finalising the rule for Social Obligation Fund to ensure the best use of the fund.

The law ministry approved the draft of the rule last month, which will be published soon, an official of the ministry said.

The fund was formed to build telecom infrastructure in places where mobile companies find expansion costs unfeasible.

Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has so far collected over Tk 600 crore from the mobile operators, which is 1 percent of the gross revenue of the operators.

The fund was supposed to be created with contributions from the government, local, foreign and international organisations and the telecom operators, according to the Telecom Act.

But the government has been collecting the money from the mobile operators only since 2011 although there was no official guideline, absence of which restricted the fund to be utilised yet.

“We want the ministry to discuss the governance and implementation of the fund with us,” said Mahmud Hossain, chief corporate affairs officer of Grameenphone.

The rule should not be in conflict with the Telecom Act, which is intended for the development of the sector, he said.

Abu Saeed Khan, senior policy fellow at Colombo-based ICT think tank LIRNEasia, said the fund collection cannot continue forever.

The government must set a target amount to be raised, he added. “Otherwise, it will become a crucible of corruption.”

“We last wrote to the telecom ministry on July 21 for a consultation,” said TIM Nurul Kabir, secretary general of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh.

“We wrote similar letters along with a draft rule to the ministry in December last year and January this year.”

However, neither the government nor the telecom regulator discussed the rule with the operators.

In March 2010, BTRC prepared a draft of the rule and sent it to the telecom ministry.

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