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The Quest for Universal Rural Telephone Services: Challenges And Choices

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The Indian Journal of Public Administration, Vol. LII, No. 3, July-September 2006




This article attempts to give the reader a brief outline of the reasons behind the phenomenon whereby vast urban-rural access gaps in telecom connectivity (digital divide) continue to persist in spite of telecom reforms. This gap, known as the ‘Actual Access Gap’ is found world over, to a lesser or greater extent, depending on the level of a country’s overall economic development. In India, it is seen in the form of a wide and ever growing gap in urban-rural teledensity. The article briefly describes the various measures which have been adopted, world over in the past and which continue to be used, to address this connectivity gap. Supplementing market forces and encouraging private initiative through Universal Service Fund has been internationally acknowledged to be one of the most transparent and efficient methods of bridging the urban- rural access gap. This method has been discussed with special reference to the application and achievements of Universal Service Obligation (USO) policy in India. The article includes a first hand description of some of the field level problems encountered in implementation of the USO policy along with suggested remedial measures. Acknowledging that the present policy though sound, is inadequate to achieve the desired level of rural teledensity, various alternative measures to augment existing policy initiatives under USO have been analyzed with some suggestions.


  1. Telecommunications and Information Services for the Poor , volume 432 Posted: 2002-04
  2. Telecommunications Regulation Handbook, World Bank Posted: 2000-11
  3. USO-Universal Service Obligation 2. USP-Universal Service Provider 3. CCA-Controller of Communication Accounts 4. VPT-Village Public Telephone 5. RDEL-Rural Direct Exchange Line 6. RCP-Rural Community PhoneDocument 7, ITU Global Symposium for Regulators,Dec2002, Abbreviations , volume 1
  4. ; Trai-Telecom , Government , India's Policy Or , On , SubjectAbout the Author The author belongs to the 1989 batch of the Indian P&T Accounts and Finance Service. She has held posts as Internal Financial Advisor in the Department of Telecommunications (DOT), BSNL and MTNLRegulatory Authority of India DISCLAIMER IT IS HEREBY STATED THAT THE VIEWS EXPRESSED IN THIS ARTICLE ARE PURELY THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND DO NOT IN ANY WAY REFLECT THE